Flat White

We can’t eradicate coronavirus. Let’s not eradicate our national spirit trying

21 July 2021

2:00 PM

21 July 2021

2:00 PM

I feel incredibly lucky to be living in our beautiful country. Thanks to our swift response to Covid-19, we have come out relatively unscathed. However, despite our success, we have not escaped the widespread anxiety that has held us hostage since the pandemic hit. 

Some say the recent failings are because we’re victims of our own success, but that’s not entirely the case. Instead, we are being kept captive by a media and political class operating off a model of terror. Now, some 540 days into the pandemic, Australia has nothing to fear but fear itself.

The dangers this presents is threefold: logic and reason are struggling to exist, blind faith in authority, and shifting values. Together, they have a detrimental effect on our psyche, manifesting in a national identity crisis holding us back from keeping up with the rest of the world.

Recently, the public sphere has been plagued with officials using scare tactics to create hysteria.  

One of the best in the business has been the Queensland government, who believes a less than a one-in-a-million chance of death is enough to turn under forties away from the AstraZeneca vaccine. True to form, the state’s Premier led the charge when she refused to delete a Tweet incorrectly claiming “the UK Government won’t allow their under 40s to get the AstraZeneca vaccine“.

It would be impossible to lead our lives according to these standards. We are 5.6 times more likely to die in a car accident, so roads would shut down, taking us back to a pre-twentieth century world. No matter how hard our leaders try, risk is inherent to our worldly experience and an attempt to take that way is to deny the very thing that makes us human. 

Their rhetoric has been destructive to our national recovery, reflecting a post-pandemic condition where misrepresented numbers disrupt everyday life. Due to this, we have found ourselves in a peculiar paradox, where we are scared to death of COVID-19 but just as frightened of the solution.

The fear and loathing continues with ABC journalist, Joe O’Brien, crunching the numbers of the Sydney outbreak to “dispel the myth that this only affects the elderly“. Misguided by virtue, O’Brien’s Tweet to his 30,000 followers drew from the narrowest pools of data to wrongly debunk an objective fact. 

In the United States last year, the COVID-19 fatality rate was approximately 0.002 per cent for under 18s and 0.05 per cent for people aged 18 to 49; while in Australia, the average age of coronavirus related deaths is over the national life expectancy — 83.5. 

All the while, our scare-mongering politicians and media irresponsibly sensationalise statistics to make healthy people believe they are a real chance of dying. Unfortunately, the impact of the misinformation is widespread, with research showing Australia’s perception of the virus is galaxies away from reality.

A True North survey of 1000 Australians found 67 per cent of participants believed the delta virus was more contagious and deadly than earlier strains when, in actual fact, it is more contagious but less deadly — sadly, only 26 per cent knew that.  

An alarming trend emerging is the loss of our larrikin spirit and growing subservience to draconian Premiers who arbitrarily shut down cities over a handful of cases. Three infections locked down Perth and one in Brisbane, costing their economies $200M and $300M, respectively. 

The unprecedented financial implications of lockdowns have been reported extensively, but there are significant social impacts beyond these figures. Since the pandemic, we have seen a surge in domestic violence, while mental health services, like SANE Australia, estimate demand has risen by 200 per cent.

As all this is happening — businesses closing, weddings cancelled, and funerals called off — our leaders are playing by their own set of rules; à la Brett Sutton breaking restrictions to fly to Canberra for an awards ceremony or Annastacia Palaszczuk seeking a travel exemption to go to Tokyo after wanting to turn away international arrivals.

Compounding the hypocrisy, footballers, actors and other members of the elite are granted special dispensation.

Yet, Premiers like Palaszczuk only show signs of compassion for regular Australians when enough noise is generated to create a political problem. Last month, she repeatedly rejected requests for a son to see his dying father — policy enforcement not exclusive to the Sunshine State.

The response to questions about these double standards or the medical proof behind restrictions? No facts or transparency required. Just rest assured they will do whatever it takes to keep us safe.

As a nation, we need to roll up our sleeves, get vaccinated and not shriek with horror at the sound of a sneeze or cough. Stephen Duckett, the former secretary of the Department of Health, says Australia is fighting a new coronavirus war with old weaponry.

It’s critical we update our arsenal and follow the lead of countries like Singapore who will only report on deaths and hospitalisation; or the United Kingdom opening up in the face of 100,000 daily cases.

Australians must get the jab to take back their identity and learn to live with the virus. You get the politicians you deserve, meaning we can no longer accept responses fuelled by trepidation and demand a measured approach where logic prevails.

Eradicating COVID-19 is an unrealistic goal, and we should be careful not to lose our character in the process. They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I hope we realise this before it’s too late.

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