Australia ceases to be a role model in the fight against Kovid

Sydney.- Like millions of Melbourne residents who participated in one of the harshest lockdowns on the planet, Ray Thomas spent 262 days locked in his home amid the coronavirus pandemic. A single father of two children, he managed to pay the bills during that time.

By October some of Thomas’ restrictions and sentiment were beginning to be lifted. His company, which organizes shows and events, resumed its activities with the reopening of bars and nightclubs.

But then came Omicron.

This type of coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in Australia, despite high vaccination rates and strict restrictions on the entry of foreigners, which kept the country isolated from the rest of the world for nearly two years. Those measures, which turned Australia into a near-Covid-19 utopia at the start of the pandemic, are being reevaluated as the country bans tennis player Novak Djokovic in the run-up to the Australian Open for refusing to vaccinate. tries to.

Tired of the lockdown, Australians wonder why their country, which in theory did everything it could to stop the spread of the virus, is facing a strong wave of infections.

“They tell you, ‘Stay home, you can’t go behind the mailbox for days and months, after eight o’clock at night.’ And then they come up with that ‘we have to double the effort,'” complained Thomas, whose company, Anthem Entertainment, has been making losses for 23 months. “Again with all this. Again!”.

Officially, more than 600,000 of Australia’s 26 million residents have active infections, although experts believe the figure is much higher. According to two experts, the outbreak is due to two reasons: politicians did not want to back down on their promises, made before Omicron’s arrival, to ease restrictions, such as the order to wear face masks, and the new version was unreliable. highly infectious.

Following the new version, the government of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, re-ordered the use of chinstraps. But by then it was too late.

While hospitalizations and deaths are relatively low, vaccines have not stopped the spread. On the other hand, the vaccination program, under which 80% of the population has received at least one dose, began later than in other Western countries, so there are many people who still cannot receive the third dose.

“Vaccines alone are not enough,” says epidemiologist Adrian Esterman, director of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia. “We were doing pretty well, until New South Wales decided it didn’t want more imprisonment.”

Esterman called on politicians to make chinstraps and social distancing mandatory, and to improve ventilation in schools. Children are ready to go back to school after the Australian summer.

Just this month the vaccination for boys between the ages of five and 11 was approved.

“We don’t have enough vaccines for children,” says Esterman, who worked for the World Health Organization in the past. “We know what needs to be done to make schools safe: the first is to vaccinate students and teachers, make sure ventilation is good and children wear masks. Are we doing this in Australia? No”.

Although high vaccination rates prevent an even bigger crisis in hospitals, Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid says it is difficult to see the situation the country is going through after being a global example of the fight against Covid-19.

“It is disappointing to see that our infection rates per resident have become among the highest in the world in places like New South Wales, when we had one of the lowest a while back,” he laments. “It is sad that the country’s reopening coincided closely with the arrival of O’Micron.”

In recent months, the government has shifted from a policy of “zero COVID” to that of “you have to live with the virus”, causing confusion among the population.

“Omicron changed everything,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week. “My government wants Australia to remain open and move forward for us somehow.”

Sydney resident Rodney Swann believes the government failed to respond in a timely manner and is shocked by the number of infections.

“These are figures that happen in England,” he says. “I have friends in London, because I lived there, and they are afraid of what happens in Australia.”

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, director of the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, says politicians are afraid to create unrest by imposing new restrictions. But he noted that the infection could be contained if the public had free N95 masks and rapid testing.

“We could have controlled the wave, but there is no political will to do so,” Baxter said.

Former human rights commissioner Chris Sidoti, who has two grandchildren and minors entering and leaving hospitals after catching Covid-19 two weeks before vaccination begins, blames the government for the Omicron wave.

They wonder why the government didn’t have enough rapid tests before the PCR testing system collapsed. And why the ruler of New South Wales refused to impose restrictions such as the use of masks in November, when the new version appeared, before minors and most adults could get a third dose.

“We did everything wrong from day one because our politicians don’t learn and don’t prepare,” Sidoti said in an interview. “People don’t listen because there’s no consistency, no credibility, and no answers.”