‘Worse than lockdown’ is a headline that has been used far too often in the media recently.
That’s right, while most families have been locked up for the better part of two years, there are actual people who believe that the pain inflicted by the Omicron wave resulted in a worse situation than the hellscape that was Victoria’s lockdowns.
The Western Australia Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, in justifying their decision to lock themselves away from the rest of Australia, said the eastern states were ‘essentially locked down’.
This kind of take ignores the basic human-to-human interaction that Victorians have been desperate to experience again.
Last time I checked, I can take my 20-month-old son to visit a playground, go to childcare, or visit his cousins.
His first birthday party was cancelled last year due to another lockdown, his second won’t be. I’d call that ‘better than lockdown’.
People can freely walk outside their home after 9pm, further than 5km if they please, but supposedly this is essentially ‘locked down’…?
However, The Guardian Australia’s Peter Hannam argues we’ve put the economy before the health of the nation. Other members of the media class have used emotive framing and language, describing our current settings as a ‘let it rip’ approach, to attempt to characterise the current settings as sacrificing grandma for the economy.
Many of the same ‘experts’, such as the former Federal Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps, called for the beginning of the school year to be delayed. Credit where credit is due, Daniel Andrews was correct to resist such alarmism.
In reopening schools, the Victorian government has called for former teachers to help fill staff relief caused by isolation. At the same time, the same government has stood down countless teachers for being unvaccinated.
With a vaccination rate of over 95 per cent, there is a strange perversity of calling on elderly retired teachers to come back to the supposedly dangerous school environment, while young healthy teachers are being put out of a job.
The issues caused in the economy like staff shortages and supply chain problems could easily be fixed by easing requirements around isolation, as Boris Johnson’s government is planning to do in the UK from March.
Contrary to what the public health pundits say, this is not just about ‘the economy’ as an abstract term. The economy is just a measure of human-to-human interaction. Our health and wellbeing depend on a variety of factors, including economic conditions and the freedoms that go with it such as that first beer with your mates, a wedding that’s been delayed for two years, or a family dinner.
The idea that restrictions can be imposed to protect ‘public health’ without any other adverse costs to society is make-believe. That’s why, for instance, cars and pedestrians are permitted to use public roads despite the inherent but small chance of accidents.
The economy isn’t a system existing in isolation. In reality it’s so much of what makes us human. This is what some people want to put an end to.
Evan Mulholland is the Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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