It’s obvious now we were lulled into a false sense of security several weeks ago by Queensland CHO Jeannette Young when she said future lockdowns were unlikely. Our CHO has panicked once again, caused the Premier a sleepless night, and Brisbane is once again in a costly and unnecessary lockdown.
Obviously, it’s bad for tourism. It’s disruptive. It ignores fundamental civil liberties. It smashes business confidence. All of these costs for only a small number of COVID cases, and with the vaccine being rolled out, and on the day after JobKeeper has ended. It defies common sense.
The argument goes that the lockdown means we can get on top of the cluster and hopefully all is good for Easter. But how can this be so when the case numbers we’ll see over the next few days will have been determined by events one week or two weeks ago? The lockdown we’ve entered into makes it more likely, not less likely, that we’ll be in lockdown over Easter. We’re already in lockdown, so, unless we see only one or two new cases, I expect the government will keep us in lockdown. This is complete madness.
For a rational conversation on the undesirability of the new three-day Brisbane lockdown, check out Steve Austin’s masterful interview of ANU Professor Peter Collignon on 612 ABC Brisbane this afternoon (from around 1:48:03). Recall that Professor Colllignon was critical of the early January Brisbane lockdown. I think that, if you have such an eminent medical scientist critical of a health policy measure, you should have a more critical view of the judgment of our CHO.
I argued against the extension of the CHO’s emergency powers and against further lockdowns – unless our public health system was at risk of overwhelm – back in January at the Parliamentary Inquiry into the relevant bill, but, alas, fear prevailed among our elected representatives. Only the One Nation member Stephen Andrew had the wisdom and courage to oppose the extension of the CHO’s powers. Check out my post:
Upcoming Qld Parliamentary Committee appearance regarding COVID emergency and CHO powers on Friday
We can’t go on with these disruptive lockdowns whenever we get a handful of cases. I was supportive of the first lockdown last year because everything was so uncertain, and we had so many more cases each day. But we’ve had time to get a decent contact tracing system in place – we hope – and we should not have to resort to these costly and totalitarian lockdown measures if we’re only seeing a small number of cases.
For strident arguments against lockdowns, check out my Economics Explored interview with UNSW Professor of Finance Peter Swan AO.
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Given many overseas countries have been in lock-down for many months, 3 days is quiet acceptable, especially if we can move into easter with more confidence.
This disease is very tricky, and unfortunately far more cunning than Steve and Peter put together.
Hardly a good argument for acceptability.
Also, unfortunately, while contact tracing apps and check-ins are improving – Brisbane venues have been very busy over the last few weeks, and nobody is visibly practicing social distancing anymore.
We all need to lift our game to beat this.
Hi Katrina, yes, I agree we need to lift our game re. social distancing while we’re out and about. Thanks for your comments.
“Only a handful of cases”!!! As soon as an outbreak of a highly infectious virus is detected, that is exactly the time to go fast and hard – immediate lock-downs, contract tracing, ring fencing etc. Too late when there are a large number of cases. Not only with Covid 10 but with any outbreak of a highly infectious virus eg foot and mouth virus in cattle. If you let the genie out of the bottle and don’t act immediately, it will spread, so that, it becomes very difficult/impossible to control – contract tracing soon becomes impossible with an organism with an exponential rate of increase. That’s what happened in Europe and America and that’s why they are in such a mess.
So Qld Health and the Government have acted correctly and prudently, even if it is inconvenient for some. They have a moral duty to protect people’s lives. This is a higher duty than the economy or financial impacts/inconveniences on individuals.
The Qld government did the right thing, but this is not the key issue. The key issue is that current outbreak occurred because of transmission from an overseas traveler who infected a doctor and nurses in a major Brisbane hospital. Given the highly infectious airborne nature of this virus, it can be expected that it will escape from such hospital facilities and spread in the population resulting in the need for lock downs etc. Viruses are extremely difficult to contain, and indeed, it seems likely that the pandemic originated from an escape from the dangerous ‘gain of function’ virus research reported in the Wuhan lab. Such viral escapes are a statistical probability, so such facilities need to be placed in areas which will minimise the risk of transmission, if mistakes are inevitably made (i.e. the passive safety approach).
The solution: Quarantine accommodation for incoming overseas travelers to Australia with an attached infectious disease hospital facilities adjacent to an airfield in a remote location away from major population centres. Staff to live on site with one or two month tours of duty. No different to fly-in fly-out miners – other than quarantine period (separate from travelers) prior to fly-out of staff if not vaccinated. It is unlikely everyone will be vaccinated before 2022 (or willing to be vaccinated) and there will be future pandemics – that is the nature of viruses. So the choice is ‘be prepared’ or ‘she’ll be right mate, no worries’.
Under the constitution, quarantine at international borders is a federal responsibility, control of epidemics/health within a state is a state responsibility. The states have done their part, it’s time for the Feds to do theirs. Quarantine in remote locations is not a new idea. It is how resident populations were protected from potentially infected travelers in the nineteenth century – the only difference now is that it needs to be done mainly for airline travelers at airports, not mainly for ship borne travelers at sea ports.