The Queensland Government needs to improve its COVID decision making process after the absurd three-day Greater Brisbane lockdown, which thankfully wasn’t extended beyond 6pm last night. ANU Professor Peter Collignon yesterday criticised the lockdown on 2GB radio, as reported by the Courier-Mail:
A leading Australian infectious disease expert has criticised Greater Brisbane’s snap three-day-lockdown, saying it was an “unreasonable” over-reaction that “won’t solve the problem”.
Very true. It’s one of the worst decisions from the state government in a long time. The decision was made by Queensland’s (unelected) Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young whose advice is always followed by our Premier, based on what she has said in various press conferences. The Queensland Parliament is currently considering whether to extend the CHO’s extraordinary emergency powers out to 30 September. It will, of course, and there’s little point in making a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry, but I would suggest we urgently need to improve our COVID decision making process in Queensland. Greater use should be made of external experts such as Professor Collignon and others. With the Grand Chancellor cleaner’s partner also infected with COVID, there is the definite possibility the Queensland Government could tighten restrictions if infections increase, and we want to make sure any decisions are well made and subject to rigorous scrutiny.
I asked my old friend and former Treasury colleague Joe Branigan of Tulipwood Economics, who co-authored Getting Australia Safely Back to Work with Henry Ergas, what he thought about COVID decision making in Queensland and here’s what he replied:
The Premier (and Cabinet) must be the ultimate decision-maker. Jeanette Young’s objective is too narrow, so there’s no balance to the decision. The 3-day lockdown has been a total farce – why not request voluntary mask carrying in crowded places, with no lockdown? Silliness.
Absolutely. Thanks to Joe for letting me reproduce his reply.
Finally, I should note that, overall, the Queensland Government and other governments across Australia have largely done a good job in managing COVID, except for the hotel quarantine fiasco in Victoria and some harsh interstate border restrictions. Australia is clearly in a better position than most other countries. But we can still do better. Improving the decision making process in Queensland would hopefully prevent bad decisions such as the three-day Greater Brisbane lockdown in the future.
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Yes a 3 day lock-down ‘won’t solve the problem’ because the virus has up to a 2 week incubation period. This is the full text of what Professor Collignon correctly said. However the infected person has been in the community for a week or so already so if further cases are found in the 3 day lock-down the lock-down can be extended – without the 3 days lost where the virus could spread further. This is a rational decision. The virus has an exponential rate of spread so once community transmission is detected going fast and hard is essential.
In an economic depression government relies on economic advice, in war on military advice and in a human pandemic on medical/scientific advice. It does not rely on parliamentary committees or other committees designing camels. The Qld Health Dept. has around 70,000 employees, most of them medical scientists, doctors, nurses, allied health, all with varying levels of scientific training about viruses. These the people who inform the chief medical officer’s decisions. She does not operate in a vacuum, she is the public face, the top of the tree – but it is in the leaves and roots where the policy is made.
The summary of the Ergas/Brannigan policy paper by the Menzies Foundation is appallingly bad. Understandable given the professional economic focus but still wrong. They really just don’t understand. For example the comment in the overview ‘the goal must be mitigation, not elimination’. You simply can’t contain a highly infectious viral disease, other than in super high security quarantine facilities such as the CSIRO facility at Geelong, Vic. If it’s lethal, as well, it must be eliminated either by quarantine or vaccines, otherwise there will be ongoing deaths and ongoing debility. They don’t understand. Imagine if there was an outbreak of ‘foot and mouth’ virus in cattle out west, who would be silly enough to tell a bunch of Australian cattlemen that the ‘goal must be mitigation, not elimination’.
In a war it is the job of the military to defeat the enemy first, it is the job of economists and industry to rebuild the economy after the war. In a pandemic it is the job of the medicos to defeat the virus. To fight simultaneously on two fronts means you will lose both. The virus is the priority, it must be eliminated first, either by quarantine or vaccination.
Totally disagree with your opinion today G
Even more absurd is this blogs reliance on a self professed expert you may or may not have all, or any, of the relevant facts.
The CHO provided a clear explanation why the lockdown was necessary in detailed videos on Queensland Health Facebook page. You should watch it.
3 days lockdown completed . We have all moved on .
People will need to become more resilient- because there will be more disruptions from disease, climate, trade disruption, insurrection, ai , etc .,
Your article today is of little value, and unhelpful, to covid recovery. Just stick to the plan and we will all get through this with our health system and community in place.