Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson
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Without lockdowns, the virus will spread rapidly
I agree with Annika Smethurst (Opinion, 11/6) that strict lockdowns come with a high human, social and economic cost. The example of a family who were denied the chance to invite a large number of mourners to their little boy’s funeral was most heartbreaking and unfair.
During lockdowns, businesses suffer and families are divided. People’s mental health is affected, even those who may not have experienced depression or anxiety in the past. It is important that people can talk about the rights and wrongs of lockdowns, without being labelled “loonies”.
However, I do not share Smethurst’s belief that “better treatments, a clued-up population, improved hygiene, and stronger testing and contact tracing methods” are all that is needed to manage outbreaks right now. Without lockdowns to contain serious outbreaks, the virus will rapidly spread and multiply to unmanageable levels. When this happens, better treatments will mean little when intensive care units and hospital wards are too full to treat people.
Health authorities are using lockdowns because they are the strongest means we have to bring an outbreak under control, and they have proved extremely effective when triggered early enough. Yes, we have other tools, such as masks, social distancing and hotel quarantine, to mitigate those risks (and they have their flaws, too). However, until we have strong take-up of vaccines and we know that this is effectively suppressing the spread of COVID, I for one am happy for health authorities to take a “sledgehammer” to control this virus.
Sara Bannister, Reservoir
Widespread vaccination saves many lives
We all yearn with Annika Smethurst for an easing of restrictions. She points out that Australian deaths from COVID-19 have been similar to the typical annual deaths from flu. But a more careful analysis is needed to assess the relative risks of the two illnesses.
In the United States, the deaths from flu in 2020-21 were about 600 (Scientific American, April 29). The deaths from COVID-19 have exceeded 600,000. We can also estimate, by comparing the US flu deaths last season with those in a typical year (about 30,000) that without the restrictions the number of deaths from COVID-19 might have been up to 50 times greater in the US alone. Restrictions save many, many lives.
There is some hope for easing restrictions. In the United Kingdom, the new COVID-19 variants have seen case numbers increase to about where they were at the end of September, at the start of their second wave. But mortality has remained low (thus far at least), at about one-tenth that at the corresponding time in their second wave. The reason? The very high vaccination rates among the older and more vulnerable population. The lesson? Get vaccinated, so we can all get out.
Neville Nicholls, Viewbank
Our toll is low because we acted so strongly
After acknowledging the calamitous toll of the virus in other countries, Annika Smethurst proceeds to ignore it, focusing on Australia’s comparatively paltry 910 deaths. She writes that 910 deaths is less than the flu, before acknowledging that COVID is deadlier and more infectious than the flu. She also forgets that flu vaccines have long been widely available.
Smethurst says Australia has, “for the most part, been lucky”. No, it has not. Australia’s pandemic response, which she argues is disproportionate to its low death toll, is precisely the reason why this toll is so low. She says we deviated from a “flatten the curve” response, without touching upon the ramifications of such a response in those very countries that have been devastated by COVID while still having to put up with ongoing restrictions and extended lockdowns.
Smethurst says “most studies have found a death rate between 1 and 3 per cent. Or, another way to look at it is that there is a survival rate of between 97 and 99 per cent”. Let COVID infect even 10per cent of the Australian population, and that survival rate translates into as many as 75,000 dead.
Ben Redwood, South Yarra
The pharmacists’ role
Your article, “Safety fears over maternity ward staff shortages” (The Age, 10/6) highlights the fact that nurses are being drawn to COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, leaving shortages in hospitals of qualified nurses. Pharmacists are trained and practised in giving the yearly flu jab, so why not use them to deliver the jab and release nurses back into hospitals? This happens to some degree in other states and is widely practised in Canada.
Margaret Forster, Aberfeldie
Put it in perspective
How about a dose of reality? How many people in Australia have actually died because of COVID-19 in comparison to the number whose mental health has been destroyed by isolation, and whose physical health, and even longevity, have been damaged by a lack of preventative testing and treatment for other conditions?
Merryn Boan, Brighton
Let’s be pro-active
Re “AFL grand final to be shifted if MCG crowds are banned: McLachlan” (Sport, 11/6). Here is an idea, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan. Get on the front foot with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and his team with a plan.
Make grand final tickets available only to fans who have been fully vaccinated and make masks compulsory for everyone in the crowd. If necessary, ban the sale of food and drink at the game. Also, if necessary, make it mandatory for all attendees to enter home quarantine post-match until they test negatively for COVID-19. In this way we can show the world how to live alongside the virus. Or, we can just keep complaining.
Paul Chapple, Belmont
A boost for private, again
So a new report, Investing in Schools, Funding the Future, has found that in the decade to 2018, non-government schools outspent government schools on capital works by $29.6 billion, with the help of hundreds of millions in taxpayer grants every year (The Age, 10/6). Bread and circuses hiding redistribution to the rich at the expense of the poor.
Rosemary Kiss, Rippleside
Aim for equality for all
In response to the proposal for animals in workplaces (Life, 11/6), what about people who are so severely allergic to animals that they cannot breath or go into anaphylaxis? Do we just exclude them from their workplaces? Yes, animals are positive but work should be about equality for all, not just the healthy ones.
If animals are allowed on transport, and in shops, cafes or all offices, I would not be able to go anywhere. Please think about all people and diverse approaches. People with severe, life-threatening allergies are not “roadblocks” and they deserve the same freedoms to go places as everyone else.
Karen Felder, Elsternwick
A taste of Trump tactics
Shadow treasurer, Louise Staley, went to far with her “please explain” about the extent of the Premier’s back injuries. Does this mean, God forbid, that in the future when an MP has been diagnosed with cancer and takes extended medical leave, he or she will have to disclose their medical records? I was hoping that with the departure of a certain globally known “politician”, these kind of tactics would have departed with him.
Henry Halmans, Carlton
Speak to us, Premier
Victorians should not begrudge Dan Andrews having an extended period of leave on full pay to recover from injuries. However, after three months it is reasonable to ask why he cannot even engage in a “bedside” interview limited to questions on how his injuries were sustained and his anticipated path to recovery. Declining an opportunity to refute the conspiracy theorists is odd for a seasoned media performer.
Perhaps he needs pain control medications that could cloud his mental faculties. Alternatively he may have suffered a head injury beyond a severe concussion that under AFL rules would have had him back on the field long ago.
Mr Andrews is entitled to privacy in respect of his health. His deputy has assumed his responsibilities without any obvious change in policy direction: periodic lockdowns in pursuit of virus eradication. However the times are very uncertain and perhaps he should now conclude that his right to privacy is a secondary consideration. He needs to appear in person to reassure Victorians that his return to the helm is imminent and that, accordingly, all will be well.
John Allsop, retired surgeon, Mont Albert
A case of child neglect
I am a senior medical student who hopes to be a paediatrician like my local MP, Katie Allen (Opinion, 11/6), formerly was. I am disgusted and appalled at the treatment of the Murugappan family by the government.
As a former doctor, Ms Allen would understand the seriousness of Tharnicaa’s condition. A three-year-old with sepsis is cause for great concern. She would also understand that the delay in treatment, due to Tharnicaa’s family being held in detention on Christmas Island, would seriously impact the prognosis.
She would realise too, that the paediatricians looking after Tharnicaa would be in a very difficult position as, assuming she recovers, they would be forced to discharge her into an unsafe situation. As seen far too often in paediatrics, this is a case of serious child neglect. In this case not by family, but by government.
Anna Shalit, Huntingdale
Let’s broaden the policy
So we lock up refugees to deter people smugglers. By that logic we should lock up drug addicts to deter drug smugglers. And, equally, lock them up indefinitely – at the discretion of the unblinking Minister for Barbed Wire.
Geoffrey Marnell, Gardenvale
Parents had a choice
While the compassion for the little Murugappan girls shown by your correspondents is commendable, it must be remembered that not only our government but also their parents are making decisions. For whatever reason, the latter choose to stay on Christmas Island, with their children, rather than go home to Sri Lanka.
Albert Riley, Mornington
ALP, more details and…
Anthony Albanese has expressed support for the Murugappan family. Will his party promise that a Labor government will invite them to return to Australia if they are expelled by the Coalition government?
Alan Gunther, Carlton
…more choices, please
Where is the Labor Party? It should be standing much more strongly and publicly for the Biloela family to allow them to return to Biloela, where they are loved and supported. That would give them, and us who are fortunate not to be in this situation, hope for the future. And what is the party’s policy on human rights? Does it have one? A definite choice at the next election would be marvellous.
Jennifer Monger, Benalla
Supporting our members
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The nightmare begins
You know that things are getting pretty bad when you wake up on a Friday morning and the first thing that pops into your head is, “Oh no, not crosswords by DA”.
Jim Downey, Point Lonsdale
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
Louise Staley, I can help. I saw Dan fall down the steps getting out of a flying saucer, after a secret flight to meet the Easter Bunny.
Rob Butler, Shoreham
The Liberals are suffering from DDS (Daniel Deprivation Syndrome).
Wanchai Kabilpong, Dromana
Dan’s missing. So is Richard Colbeck. Any conspiracy theories forthcoming?
Barry Culph, St Leonards
Masks are still mandatory. Will workers on construction sites now do their bit for the community and don them?
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris
It’s amazing how the 9am report of a doughnut day can lift the spirits.
John Walsh, Watsonia
Victorians would be forgiven for asking: “What have we done wrong?“. Coming out of our fourth lockdown, the heavens open up.
Eric Kopp, Flinders
Gerard Brennan (11/6), as an Australian, I am also ashamed by the government’s treatment of this family.
Elaine Carbines, Belmont
A female minister demonstrating integrity, compassion, initiative? Not on ScoMo’s watch.
Barbara McLaren, Mount Eliza
Prime Minister, you are not the man of steel. You’re the Tin Man in search of a heart.
Demetrios Kourelis, Mont Albert North
The government would rather send them overseas than let them return to a town that would welcome them back and value their contribution.
Ennis Barnes, Kennington
Katie Allen, MP and former paediatrician, offers advice on quarantine (11/6) but refuses to speak up for a sick, 3-year-old in detention.
Linda Sparrow, Brighton
When Ross Lyon was coaching, his press conferences were highly amusing. If he coaches Collingwood, we’ll be in for a hell of a ride.
John Rawson, Mernda
Thanks to COVID-19, not only can I spell epidemiology but also I’m learning the Greek alphabet.
Kate Wilkinson, Elsternwick
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