Covid: We’re sailing into the eye of an unimaginable storm

Covid: We’re sailing into the eye of an unimaginable storm, by Chris Kenny.

We will not know whether we have blown the pandemic response — economically, medically and socially — until the worst of it is over. Yet 10 months in, early fears that we have opted for expensive and damaging temporary measures to stave off a permanent pest have only grown. …

Measuring risks, costs, benefits and proportionate responses has never been more difficult. Obviously, the reason our medical toll has been so modest so far is, in large part, because of the intense response.

But with state borders closed, Melburnians chained to within 5km of their homes and many businesses and families stuck in financial cryogenics, we must strenuously interrogate the effectiveness of every measure. Melbourne’s curfew provides an exemplar of what to avoid — now scrapped, we know it was imposed without medical or law ­enforcement advice and that it had no beneficial impact on public health. …

We might never know what else was unnecessary. Should pubs and restaurants have stayed open with social distancing and customer registration (much as they operate in most of the country now)? The nation’s best medical advice said schools should have remained open all along.

Why? Because governments could. And it would have been seen as callous not to try.

Opposition politicians have toyed with pushing for greater freedoms and debating alternative approaches, but it is easier for them to seize on every infection or death as a gotcha government failure. The way we are responding is both a symptom and a cause of our long march down the bigger government road.

Given mindless faith in ever-expanding government has people blaming politicians for the weather, it is hardly surprising that they expect governments can control invisible and highly infectious viruses. (Not the ­Chinese government, mind you, they are the one government immune from COVID criticism — go figure.) …

The response is not sustainable for much longer:

After working hard in its early budgets to pull federal spending below 25 per cent of GDP, the Coalition blew it out to 29 per cent in the financial year just finished, even though the virus only arrived on our shores in January.

This year, federal spending will top 34 per cent of GDP. Government has gone viral. …

Too much is predicated on a game-changing vaccine that might never arrive. …

We need to consider what we would be doing if we knew there was no hope of finding a vaccine. …

Something like the current NSW model should be our starting point. … There will be cases and clusters for the foreseeable future, but they are quickly identified, publicised and, so far, touch wood, contained. …

Why not lockdown all the time? It’s greatly diminished flu deaths.

It is instructive to realise the COVID-19 restrictions have virtually killed our flu season. “This is virtually a non-­season,” is how Melbourne University professor of microbiology and immunology Ian Barr described it to CNN. “We have never seen numbers like this before.”

This means our coronavirus shutdowns have prevented anything up to 900 flu deaths — and many of them would have been children. If you truly cannot put a price on any life, why don’t we shut down like this every year?