Politics Opinion

COVID: Why does it have to be this way?

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Scott Morrison's Government has continually failed to protect Australians from COVID outbreaks (image via YouTube)

With COVID cases now in the hundreds of thousands, there's something lacking in the narrative when it comes to tackling all the new variants that will come in 2022.

When I speak to shop workers and people "in the street", the question everyone is asking is: why did we have to open the international borders?

Australia’s first contact with the Delta variant occurred in May 2021 and the Federal Government met in late June to finally put together some semblance of a plan to tackle the growing problem.

Before Delta, Australian international borders were shut, all but for diplomatic travel and military exercises, and we were living in a relatively COVID-free country.

In fact, on 12 May 2020, there were no new COVID-19 cases recorded and we were becoming used to a world with COVID, while Australia seemed to have beaten the dystopian reality that Europe and other regions were battling.  

We could breathe easy, so to speak, and despite our island nation being closed off to the rest of the world, our economy would come back with a vengeance and there was even talk of a surplus budget.

But the failure to keep Delta out of Australia was just another example of how the Government failed to "keep us safe", as a driver who transported airline crews caught the Delta variant and easily spread it throughout several locations.

When Delta gave us our first real taste of a virus that could rage out of control, all levels of government pushed towards the most comprehensive vaccine program we have ever seen.

Then, when the magic numbers were coming through, with 80%, then 90% of the adult population vaccinated, the rhetoric suddenly changed.

Now we’re "safer" with such a highly vaccinated population, it’s time to throw open the borders to the world, and deal with whatever comes our way — is it just me or am I missing something here?

As the UK breaks a new record for over 150,000 COVID deaths, and their hospital system buckling under Omicron, we face a similar fate as our politicians now redefined terms such as "close contact" and have told us we will probably all get the virus and to just live with it.

If this is the end-game after months of striving to stave off COVID-19, then why such stringent lockdowns in the first place?

The answer seems to have evaded all politicians and most pundits.

When former Premier, Gladys Berejiklian locked down Sydney in July 2021, the economy was haemorrhaging over a billion dollars a week in lost revenue.

Where does the answer lie in all of this?

If we consider the extremely low rates of COVID-19 infection after the first wave, then a steady decline and virtual disappearance of Delta from many of the regions before Omicron hit, the only sensible decision would have been to lift lockdowns for all of us, nationally, but to have banned international travel for all but extremely necessary reasons.

One may argue that we need to save our aviation industry after crippling months of travel bans, affecting thousands of people who are employed throughout our airports.

But when you consider the many other industries, from retail to construction, that were completely shut down when Delta surged, keeping the international borders closed was the smallest price to pay, especially with the tourism shortfall plugged with Aussies enjoying a holiday in our own backyard.

Now, as Omicron takes a vicious hold and more people are forced to self-isolate, we are witnessing food shortages, transport systems under pressure, and our hospitals at a new breaking point.

The irony that seems to be lost on all of our politicians is that the nation stopped because we were trying to rid ourselves of the disease, and now, the nation is coming to a halt because they have let it spread like wildfire.

Robert Weir has a Bachelor in Communication (Journalism and Creative Writing).

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COVID: Why does it have to be this way?

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