An extraordinary effort by federal chief health officer Professor Paul Kelly on Wednesday – and I don’t mean saying he was “happy” with New South Wales’ COVID-safe plans for the SCG Test but “with my family, I wouldn’t be taking them to this particular cricket because of the vulnerability”.
Not a good look having one perception for the general population, another for his own family.
Yet that wasn’t the most surprising aspect. Rather it was the statement that Australia does not have any mechanism for allowing an emergency approval of a vaccine for the most vulnerable and that:
“We don’t have an emergency here in Australia.”
Sure, “emergency” can be a relative term. Compared with most of the rest of the world, Australia certainly does not have a COVID emergency. “That’s not a knife; this is a knife.”
But the smaller knife is still indeed a knife.
For the residents of Sydney aged-care facilities again in total and indefinite lockdown, their emergency is real enough.
My mother-in-law turns 97 this month. Her hearing is very poor and her memory is, shall we say, “erratic”. Again limited to a visit through a glass wall, she becomes confused and depressed.
She is in a good centre and is well cared for, but she went downhill during the previous lockdown and will no doubt again.
This is an emergency for my mother-in-law and many thousands of people like her – but Australia has no facility for or intent to provide emergency access to the promised vaccine, the vaccine the Prime Minister announced we would be “among the first in the world to receive”.
Ah yes, a Prime Ministerial announcement that was good for re-announcing.
Vaccinations have started overseas.
All being well, the injections are months away from starting here and then take a month to become effective.
So with the virus out and about, aged-care residents could be locked away for at least four more months, if they’re lucky.
For the cricket, Professor Kelly said the risk had to be weighed against the benefits.
I know my mother-in-law well enough to suggest that, at this stage of her life, she’d rate the risk as not outweighing the benefit of waiting for Australian medicos to double-check the vaccine.
And while she and her peers wait for the “non-emergency” process to run its course, Australia will continue to accept flight crews and international travellers without bothering to insist on them presenting with a negative COVID test before boarding the plane.
We know there’s no guarantee a person testing negative today won’t test positive tomorrow, but it’s one more step when we also know that the virus leaks from quarantine one way or the other.
Just as well we don’t have an emergency, that Sydney people are not required to wear masks and thousands of people can go to a sporting event.