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How We Got Here

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill on August 31, 2021 in Other

Queues at the NSW Health Vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park. photo: Anne Teabody

Over the past weeks and months, I have heard from a great many people living in our locality who are experiencing anxiety, frustration and disappointment that we have found ourselves in this lockdown situation. Every member of our community has been impacted by the COVID-19 virus since early 2020. A few have been impacted very severely and my heart goes out to them, especially those in our community who have lost someone to the virus and those separated from loved ones due to border closures.
I am very conscious of those who have endured long-term pressure, for over a year now, working in frontline roles including our medical and support staff, and also our teachers, cleaners, council workers and distribution staff, who we depend upon to keep our society operating. My thoughts and appreciation are with you.
Although we have all been dealing with COVID for well over a year, developments in recent weeks have been a big shock for all of us. We thought we had dealt with it in 2020, and we thought we had been, yet again, the Lucky Country. Just how ‘unlucky’ we will end up being remains to be seen.
As some small businesses close, people lose their jobs, parents struggle with on-line learning, teachers deal with unsafe working environments and HSC students experience unacceptable levels of stress, the future for all of us is unclear.
Of course, we need to follow the NSW Health Department mandates: get vaccinated, wear masks, stay at home, keep social distancing and so on. But how did we get here? As many struggle with losing work and wages, paying mortgages, rent and bills, and even with food insecurity, the question is, ‘How did we arrive at this point?’ Were we not doing well in the fight against COVID? Were we not best in the world? “Gold standard?”
There is a palpable anger in our community, particularly among those facing the closure of their businesses, default in their mortgages and no money to buy food. The fact is that government support payments do not compensate for the loss of wages and income experienced as a result of this COVID shutdown. Many members of our community are experiencing severe economic and emotional stress.
No matter how you look at it, we are experiencing a failure of government at both federal and state levels. Call it bad luck, incompetence or failure to undertake proper risk management, the fact is that the federal government made the wrong decisions about investing in COVID-19 vaccines and left Australia trailing the world. They refused to build the quarantine facilities that were needed, content rather to rely on inappropriate hotels. Their communication with the community has been appalling.
At the NSW state level, there have been a number of seriously poor decisions that have contributed to our current predicament. Did you know that personal protective equipment for workers responsible for moving travellers from airports to their quarantine hotels was not mandated by the NSW Liberal government? Ever wondered why ‘the limo driver’ wasn’t charged? That is why! And why did it take so long to initiate strong and decisive steps to stop the spread? When you have so actively criticised other state premiers for lockdowns, it leaves you cornered!
Sadly, poor government has landed us in lockdown with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the developed world. As many people experience emotional and economic hardship, they are finding it difficult to access promised government assistance as understaffing results in long queues and unanswered phone calls.
In what can be described as a classic example of Orwellian doublespeak, we are constantly reminded that this predicament is all our own fault; that it is up to us to stop the spread and to get vaccinated.
AstraZeneca is safe – it always was! Forget the botched vaccine orders and communications and move on. We must. The sooner we can get out of this awful situation the better. We all need to do what we can to reduce the spread and get vaccinated. Stay at home, get your vaccine as soon as you can, be grateful for all the wonderful things we have in our lives. Reach out to friends and loved ones and try and enjoy the quiet.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact my office.