COVID-19: A GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
Almost from the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, there have been questions asked about the way in which governments of the world have handled the situation.
Quite clearly, there is a mainstream message and there are those who accept it without question. Increasingly, though, there are those who do question it. Some people have a general distrust of their government and will be cynical about anything.
Something Is Not Quite Right
They are not the ones I’m referring to, though. I’m referring to people who follow all instructions from the government and trust that their government knows what they are doing and will do what is in the best interest of all citizens. More and more of these people have a niggling feeling that something is not quite right.
Do most Australians think that their government is deliberately taking action that is not in the interest of its citizens? I doubt it, so let’s put that option to the side, then you can look at this a couple of ways:
- The government knows what it is doing and has got this
- The government doesn’t really know what it’s doing
It would seem that almost from the time SARS CoV-2 was announced to the world, the majority of nations’ governments behaved the same way, which makes sense.
SARS CoV-2 Is Real
If we accept that SARS CoV-2 is “a real thing” and is a new, unknown virus, then when the news came out that it was killing people, the government had to do something. If they did nothing initially, then if just one person died, there would have been a hellfire of damnation hurled at the government that they couldn’t have survived. It would have been political suicide.
Politically, then, they had to act. Politics aside, though, restriction of movement was still a prudent measure to impose. One can argue that it wasn’t the right thing to do, particularly with the benefit of hindsight. In the moment, however, a decision had to be made and caution was exercised.
Getting A Headstart On Planning
It is difficult to argue against the initial response. If it turned out to be overcautious, the measures could be rolled back. No harm, no foul. If even more restrictions or other measures turned out to be needed, at least they had a headstart. They wouldn’t be behind the 8-ball.
From that point on, however, the paths the government could have followed diverged and we are now in a far different place than we could have been. This brings us back to;
The government knows what it is doing and has got this
The government doesn’t really know what it’s doing
Could they all be wrong?
Let’s look at both cases.
If your view is that the government knows what it is doing, then we are exactly where you want to be.
The government knows what it is doing
The requirements of masks, social distancing, lockdowns and experimental vaccines, etc, is not something just one State government is following. Every State government in Australia has similar requirements. Every State government has its own health department, advisors and access to information resources. Could they all be wrong?
Could They All Be Wrong?
And it’s not just every State of Australia. Most countries of the world are following the same game plan. Could they all be wrong?
Considering the resources available to all of these nations, for them all to come to the same decision as to the best course of action makes a compelling argument to conclude that they know what they’re doing. They’ve got this.
Back to Australia, though. South Australia, in particular.
Restrictions were placed on movement of people into the State. If you arrived by air, you would know that there was a massive police presence, ensuring that every arriving passenger was screened to ensure that the likelihood they were infected (and possibly infectious) was very low.
Like other States, social distancing, handwashing and masks were the prophylactics used. Unlike many other States, positive Covid-19 cases remained low, the majority of them acquired from overseas. Locally acquired infection was very low.
Government Figures Show Low Mortality Rate
Since the first case was reported in Australia, according to government figures (https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-case-numbers-and-statistics#total-covid19-cases-in-australia-by-source-of-infection) South Australia has had a total of 932 cases and 4 people have died. That’s roughly a 0.46% mortality rate. (As at 30th Nov, 2021)
Whilst unquestionably a tragedy for those 4 people and their families, it is a low figure compared to some other States, with infection numbers and deaths paling in comparison to Victoria and NSW.
Even when looking at the country as a whole though, including Victoria and NSW, the mortality rate is below 1%
Government Provided Economic Support
Individuals and businesses received government payments to assist the economy during restrictions and lockdowns. How important was this?
Although many people may think that the Resources industry brings in the bulk of revenue, the Australian economy is dominated by the Services sector, which comprises more than 60% of the GDP and employs more than 78% of the labour force.
These assist packages, then, were very important to keep the economy from stalling before restrictions were eased and people allowed back to work. And despite all the disruptions, the economy seems to be travelling rather well.
The Economy Is Travelling Well
According to an RBA snapshot (https://www.rba.gov.au/snapshots/economy-indicators-snapshot/) economic growth is running at 9.6%, unemployment rate 4.6%, jobs growth 2.4%.
Compare this to pre-Covid: Growth 2.1%, unemployment 5.2%, jobs growth 2.0%
Covid-19 Vaccination Program Begins
Covid-19 vaccines became available early in 2021 and the TGA provisionally approved two of them immediately, and have since provisionally approved a third. They then embarked on a campaign to have everyone vaccinated.
Vaccination Targets Set
An 80% vaccination rate for people aged over 15 was the target to reach before restrictions would be eased. In South Australia, the date for this change was 23rd November, 2021. According to SA Premier Steven Marshall and Health Minister Stephen Wade, this 80% target is based on computer modelling done by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a research institute situated at the University of Melbourne.
According to the website, The Conversation, the Doherty Institute is “a world-class institute combining research, teaching, public health and reference laboratory services, diagnostic services and clinical care into infectious diseases and immunity.”
80% is only the initial vaccination target, however. South Australia is aiming for a 90% vaccination rate for people aged over 11 years, at which time new regulations will come into effect. So, although the initial target has been met, there remains work to be done.
Deaths To Increase As Restrictions Are Eased
On 23rd November, 2021, new regulations came into effect, as promised, and modelling shows that based on these new regulations, the “inevitable increase in Covid cases” (Nicola Spurrier, SA Chief Public Health Officer) will result in a number of deaths. The number of predicted deaths and the ability of the health system to cope with the inevitable increase varies depending on the scenario used. Three scenarios were presented.
Scenario 1 opens the borders to fully vaccinated individuals, but keeps current restrictions. Up to 51 deaths are predicted in this scenario.
Scenario 2 allows for removing the mandate to wear masks. Up to 186 deaths are predicted in this scenario.
Scenario 3 allows for high-risk activities by fully vaccinated individuals. Not only does this result in a prediction of up to 424 deaths, but the chance of exceeding hospital ward capacity is 85% and the chance of exceeding ICU capacity is 87%
The SA government is following the most conservative scenario, scenario 1.
Although scenario 1 involves maintaining current restrictions, according to the SA Covid-19 Roadmap, the State will halve its quarantine period for vaccinated international travellers from 14 days to 7 days, and increase its cap on home gatherings from 20 to 30.
The State has developed a Covid-19 management plan based on advice they have received, and are following the plan.
This is the argument to support the idea that the government knows what it is doing.
On the other hand…
(Cont. in Part 2)
Featured image courtesy ABC