Flat White

The ‘Hazzard’ of government health

17 March 2022

4:00 AM

17 March 2022

4:00 AM

‘But mummy, am I going to die?’

Such a statement isn’t something anyone wants to hear. Yet it happened. It is one of many observations made over the last few months that I hope draws attention to the complexities of policy decisions and their effects on a nation viewed internationally as relaxed and friendly.

Many in this great land have invited friends, relatives, and strangers to visit and experience what Australia has to offer, but not at the moment…

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald noted that Britons now rank Australia last in places they would like to visit. While some may not care, it is worth considering how we got here. 

I was disturbed by what I saw happen to our children in late 2021 during lockdowns and vaccine mandates. Our kids have acted unselfishly despite being at little risk of Covid, accepting the mantra that they need to be restricted and not become ‘vectors of transmission’ passing this virus on to their elders.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, Professor of Psychiatry and Ethics, offers this in response, ‘Any society that uses children to shield adults from harm has entirely lost its moral bearings.’

I offer some observations.

A group of teenagers bounce through the local mall with a mixture of chat and laughter. They go in to browse the local merchandise when one of them stops. Most of the group proudly show a vaccine passport, enter the store, and continue shopping but one teenager notices that one of the other girls doesn’t. She knows the other girl is not vaccinated and decides to stay outside with her friend. She does not make a scene, but patiently waits for their friends to come back. They seem oblivious to what has happened, and why should they notice? They are doing what teenagers have always done. I am, however, uncomfortable at the ease at which children show private health information and cannot understand the justification for the risk of stress and social anxiety to kids in the prime of their life. 

Two younger teenagers enter a shop. They are below the age required by Health Orders for mandatory vaccination. They look around and are approached by a shop assistant who demands to see their proof of vaccination. One girl proudly displays her green tick while the other volunteers that she is under the age required and is not vaccinated. That girl is abruptly escorted from the premises as if she was a criminal. Under normal circumstances, this would result in a sternly worded complaint from the parent to the manager or police. It has never been considered reasonable to treat children in such a way. Disturbingly, the shop assistant is complying with the health order. The girl is not allowed in the store unless she is closely accompanied by a vaccinated parent. The parent was just outside looking at a lengthy list of things to do during a busy and stressful day. 

Fast forward to March 2022. I walked through our local shopping centre and observed that around 20 per cent of people were wearing masks. Individual choice is paramount and there can be a variety of reasons for this, but a little surprising was that young people comprised the highest number. Why were they masked? The fatality rate for those under 50 is around 0.0035 per cent, below the 0.0044 per cent risk of dying while on the road. Do the same people mitigate risk when driving by wearing helmets and fire suits? Or do they accept that there is risk in everything they do? If it is not for physical safety, then does it provide psychological safety? If so, why are the young fearful?

NSW Health Minister Hazzard recently rejected the Health Department’s demands to bring back mask mandates and other restrictions and deserves credit for demonstrating leadership. Some may be sceptical at this newfound courage, but I would like to propose a test. Now that the fatality rate is in line with that of Influenza why not simply repeal the Public Health Orders? At a stroke of a pen, it was enacted and at the stroke of a pen, it can be repealed, thus showing consistency with Premier Perrottet’s desire for ‘personal responsibility’ and the Prime Minister’s statement that the public have had a ‘gutful of governments telling them what to do’.

The last two years have demonstrated that the longer governments bypass the usual accountability measures the more the tendency will be to coerce and exhibit influence and power over people’s lives.

Paediatric Neurosurgeon turned politician Ben Carson notes, ‘We’ve been conditioned to think that only politicians can solve our problems. But at some point, maybe we will wake up and recognize that it was the politicians who created our problems.’

Clinical Psychologist and Spectator UK contributor Dr. Gary Sidley recently posed the question, ‘Should a civilised democratic society be deliberately inflicting emotional distress on its people?’

The child who asked his mother if he was going to die had just learned he had contracted Covid. He experienced symptoms one would expect from a seasonal flu and was back bouncing off the walls after a day. The induced fear, however, has had a lasting impact. The severity and duration of which we don’t yet know.

Is this what we really want for us and for our children?

We might do well to remember the words of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.’

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