Three things the government failed at
Seen on Saturday from Melbourne, the self-congratulatory festival known as the Liberal Party Conference in Canberra was smelly.
No sign of apologies between backslaps and Bob Menzies worship, no promises to do better in the future, and no offers of help.
The Morrison government had three jobs in the pandemic: quarantine, vaccination and money.
He dodged the first, messed up the second, and stopped doing the third too soon.
As a result, the virus-free Australian shell is fragile.
Not only is Victoria on lockdown due to a failed quarantine in South Australia, but the vaccination and testing in Melbourne is in complete chaos.
At the heart of this sudden outbreak of official incompetence is the fact that Australia’s elimination strategy came about by accident.
There was no discussion on it, no study or report, no announcement, only state premiers deciding to carry out tough lockdowns and close state borders, and the federal government closing international borders.
And so here we are, or at least we were there: No community transmission of COVID-19. Elimination.
But if you were planning on wiping out a very infectious pandemic virus completely and keeping it that way, you obviously wouldn’t use the hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals, as it’s not 100% effective, and you would make sure that the vaccination ensures herd immunity for the local population. population as quickly as possible.
And just in case, you build a national testing and tracing infrastructure that can respond quickly to any outbreak, anywhere, perhaps using a nationwide QR code system.
But elimination has never been a national policy. In fact, there has never been any sign of a clear national policy.
In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “I think so, we have to live alongside the virus… The real strength of our ability to live alongside COVID is in testing, tracing and containing epidemics . “
Victoria had already proven him wrong by entering the Stage 4 lockdown because no one wanted to ‘live alongside’ the virus.
By the end of November, Victoria had been out of COVID for 28 days: she had been eliminated.
And it’s not just Victoria.
Before this latest state lockdown, Australians around the world continued to live maskless, going to soccer, theater, pubs and interstate travel. We couldn’t go to Bali or Fiji, but Queensland is fine.
So when Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka decided three weeks ago to go public with the Prime Minister last August and say we have to live with the virus, recklessly adding “although some people die “, she grabbed an old – stacked fashionable, because now everyone loves do not living with coronavirus and do not dying.
She’s right, of course. Elimination seems impossible unless it is global.
The problem is, Australia is going anyway, but since elimination has never been the national strategy, or even the announced strategies of states that have actually achieved it for a while, no one ‘built the necessary infrastructure to maintain it.
The infrastructure and the official objective are therefore at odds with reality:
- No proper quarantine station has been or is being built, and the federal government has had to be ashamed of Victoria’s misfortune, caused by a quarantine leak at a hotel in South Australia, to support its plan for a to Mickleham, although he has to be somewhere. other
- When I went to get vaccinated at Jeff’s Shed a few weeks ago, the place was empty and so far only 2% of Australians have been fully vaccinated – well behind the rest of the world (despite unfortunate efforts of Health Minister Greg Hunt to turn that into success). And those trying to get vaccinated now face long queues and phone lines
- Earlier this week, Melbourne residents stood in line for hours to get tested – as they were required to – and many of them simply gave up. Apparently the testing rate has now increased which shows what can be done.
In the absence of these three elements, strict lockdowns must be imposed whenever the virus escapes from a hotel as it did in South Africa.
Meanwhile, JobKeeper was deleted… either because the virus was eliminated or because the government simply lacked empathy.
Asked about it during the week, the government said financial support was now the responsibility of the state.
Is that so? It wasn’t a state responsibility last year, but now?
Also, only the federal government has the power to borrow to continue supporting locked-out people and businesses, but they have replaced the compassion they boasted of last year by trying to chisel states for sums. bulky silver.
So we have a strategy of accidental elimination without fully effective quarantine stations, far from enough vaccinations and not enough testing, which means lockdowns will continue to occur and no financial support for those affected.
Was there a bigger mess?
Even this prince of shambles, Boris Johnson, is at least getting vaccinated, or at least the UK civil service is.
Australia beat the world in its COVID response last year, but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The accidental elimination had one advantage, however: the economy is doing very well, because last year the federal government set the budget to live with the virus and then we got rid of it (for a while, in any case).
Additional spending by all governments totaled around $ 300 billion, and this historic fiscal stimulus was bolstered by Australia’s unique total ban on international travel.
Many more people travel outside of Australia than to Australia each year, so the ban on leaving and arriving has boosted domestic spending by tens of billions of dollars, not just on local travel. , but for everything.
So when the March quarter GDP comes out on Wednesday, that will be another strong number.
But in the cold of Melbourne, it will be cold comfort.
Alan Kohler writes twice a week for The new daily. He is also editor-in-chief of Eureka Report and financial presenter on ABC News