There is no alternative to learning to live with the virus
One of my major frustrations over the past 18 months has been watching governments at both Federal and State level acting as if they can keep Australia COVID-free forever.
This absurd belief has been behind the lack of urgency in obtaining sufficient vaccine supplies and also been the main justification behind our strategy of relying on closed national borders and lockdowns to try to eradicate COVID from Australian shores.
However, anyone who considered the next steps after Australia’s population was fully vaccinated could have seen the problem with this strategy.
While the vaccines perform as well as can be expected – which is why we should encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible – the fact remains that being vaccinated doesn’t completely eliminate the chance of you catching COVID nor from passing the virus on from others.
This basic reality and the fact that it is so contagious means that as soon as Australia opens its international borders, it is inevitable that COVID will re-enter our shores and quickly spread around the country.
And unless the Australian people want to endure lockdowns and other restrictions for years if not decades to come, the only logical conclusion from this reality is that we should get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible and then learn to live with the virus.
Exception to the groupthink
A notable exception to the COVID groupthink has been NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Unlike virtually every other political leader, Gladys has tried to find a happy medium between combatting the various outbreaks and not destroying jobs, businesses and livelihoods.
Even after being forced to impose another lockdown on Sydney and then gradually tighten restrictions in response to the Delta outbreak, Gladys has been quite vocal in recent weeks about potentially easing restrictions beginning in September once NSW reaches the 50% vaccination threshold.
This is basic common sense, for two reasons.
By talking about potentially easing restrictions in September for those who are vaccinated, she has encouraged hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders to put aside any hesitancy they might have had over the Astra Zeneca vaccine and get vaccinated.
In particular, I have heard from many friends and relatives that younger people (i.e. those younger than 40) are stepping up in large numbers to get vaccinated so they can hopefully get on with their lives.
Incentivising people to get vaccinated is, quite simply, good public policy.
Vaccinations the only way out
But it is also common sense because vaccinations are the only way out of this mess.
As Gladys stated this week:
“We have to accept what the future looks like, and be real about it and deal with it’’
She later added that it is “almost impossible” to eliminate the Delta variant.
I think Victoria is likely to learn this in the coming weeks and it will be interesting to see just how draconian Premier Dan Andrews is prepared to be in trying to emulate King Canute.
As for Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan, he has responded by saying that he will still aim for zero-COVID in his state even when 80% of Western Australians are fully vaccinated.
Good luck to him.
If he wants to cut off Western Australia from the rest of Australia and the world then hopefully he will suffer a crushing defeat at the ballot box in due course.
As for Gladys, I hope she stands her ground and forces other politicians to finally acknowledge that we have to learn to live with the virus.