COVID RESPONSE: Have to get numbers down by poll day

COVID RESPONSE: Have to get numbers down by poll day

January 2, 2022

The Age is trialling new cartoonists for Monday’s editorial cartoon. Today’s is by Stan Eales, a New Zealand-born cartoonist living in the UK and Poland. Credit:Stan Eales

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It seems Scott Morrison is entering the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil phase of COVID, discouraging people from getting tested to ″⁣decrease″⁣ numbers just before he enters his election campaign. The only problem being with so few rapid antigen tests available, people have little choice but to continue to return to testing stations. Seriously, can someone hire a decent logistics manager for the Liberal Party? We’ll need booster shots and rapid antigen tests boys. It’s not that hard.
Ginny West, Jan Juc

Grateful for late law enactment
When I read in The Age (1/1) how little of Brett Sutton’s advice has been taken by Health Minister Martin Foley in recent weeks, I was grateful that the new pandemic laws were not in place earlier.
Christine Bradbeer, Mont Albert North

An unlikely prediction of pandemic’s end
I hope that Dr Nick Coatsworth is right ( The Age, 1/1) when he says that by the end of 2022 the pandemic will be behind us.
I’m not as qualified as Dr Coatsworth but my understanding of the statements of the WHO is that the pandemic cannot end until the vast majority of the global population is vaccinated.
If this happens by the end of the year I’ll be very happy but I confess I don’t think it’s likely.
Dr Juliet Flesch, Kew

What about other variants emerging?
Nick Coatsworth seems remarkably optimistic in writing that in 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic will end. If the European experience is a predictor for Australia next winter, the pandemic could worsen here.
Currently, even double and triple vaccinated people are vulnerable to infection from the Omicron variant, albeit often in a milder form. How can we be sure that other variants will not develop in the future and pose more challenges to our health?
Also, the federal government’s poor record on vaccine supply deserves to remain an election issue, rather than to be ignored or forgotten. The lessons learnt, particularly the need to act early and decisively, should never be forgotten.
Judith Bruce, Mitcham

Only criterion should be the health advice
In spite of two years’ experience of COVID, our leaders still give the impression of not understanding what they’re dealing with. The article ″⁣Omicron: is it time to give up?″⁣ (1/1) focuses on the latest tweaks to the system but lets the national cabinet off too lightly. The only criterion for changing the COVID rules, whether they’re for vaccination regimes or for testing or isolation requirements, should be medical advice based on best evidence. Instead, our governments seem determined only to make life easier (more electable) for themselves. Whether it’s shifting the blame and avoiding responsibility, or leaving the hard decisions until it’s too little, too late, in spite of plenty of international evidence, there’s a total lack of realistic assessment or purposeful leadership.
Using the health of the economy as an excuse for removing any COVID restrictions is farcical. Removing restrictions makes things worse, not better.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Duty of care should be taken seriously
First it wasn’t a race, then it was. Then the new variant meant insufficient staff and testing. Now not enough rapid antigen tests and too expensive for the most vulnerable.
So if I model my behaviour on this, I should turn up late to work, be totally unprepared and not give a toss about how this impacts my students.
But I won’t because I take my duty of care seriously.
Julie Campbell, Reservoir


A distant reality
It must be disappointing for Scott Morrison that pesky events such as unprecedented bushfires and once-in-a-century pandemics have popped up to spoil his idyllic beach view of Australia, as Frank Bongiorno illustrates (Comment, 1/1).
Morrison’s prime ministership was supposed to be a dream run of quiet Australians just enjoying the beach, the barbecue, a beer, all while watching and listening to the cricket. That is his Australia. Everyone just chilled and not bothering him. He could wear the mantle of prime minister without really worrying about the role description. Unfortunately, it is distant from the reality of most Australians who have struggled through extraordinary events over the past two years and where exemplary leadership was not only required but expected from the Prime Minister. It never arrived.
Instead, leadership sat with its head in the sand.
Marisa Spiller, Harrietville

How to ease the heat
Australia is a big country. It can be unseasonally hot and dry on one side and cool and damp on the other. But there’s no question that in the long term it is warming and drying, leading to hotter and more frequent fires.
The 120,000 square kilometres of Australia’s ″⁣tropical savannah and rangelands″⁣ that burnt during October and November (″⁣Earth in spotlight but falls into the shadows of a politicised world″⁣, 1/1) was more than half the area burnt in the 2019-20 fires, and were overshadowed by COVID.
As Nick O’Malley and Nick Toscano concluded, while politicians haggle, the world slips deeper into the Pyrocene. Australia is one of the most fire-prone countries in the world, and our government is one of the weakest on climate. Let’s hope that, after the forthcoming election, people like Craig Kelly are replaced by the next breed of younger and smarter politicians who accept climate science and are not beholden to donations from the fossil fuel industry. We will still have fires of course, but with stronger action on climate, the majority of Australians will not be as hot under the collar.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn

When the luck runs out
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says we are a quietly confident people with an optimistic spirit.
In his New Year’s message, he said, ″⁣That is why, despite the pandemic, despite the floods, the fires, continuing drought in some areas, the cyclones, the lockdowns, even mice plagues, Australia is stronger today than we were a year ago.″⁣
Donald Horne said, almost 60 years ago, that ″⁣Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas and, although its people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.″⁣
We may be lucky enough to have a mild bushfire season, although we have taken no significant steps to reduce the risk. We will get through COVID because all pandemics finally become epidemics.
But we may still be surprised by ″⁣unforeseen″⁣ problems in aged care, insecure employment, higher education, gender bias and, the elephant in the room for 40 years, climate change.
Alison Fraser, Ascot Vale

Pier into the future
As the population of the Mornington Peninsula swells over summer, spare a thought for our historic piers. The planned demolition of the historic Flinders Pier is a stark reminder of how quickly our maritime history can vanish; and take with it a much-loved amenity enjoyed daily by walkers, swimmers, divers, people fishing and families with children.
The Flinders Pier, along with many others around our waterways, is in desperate need of restoration.
Demolition should never be the first response to something that will cost money to restore, especially when it forms part of our state’s history.
Flinders Pier needs to be saved as an exemplar of sensible government policy, for the enjoyment of future generations of all Victorians.
Charles Reis, Flinders

It’s not a race
I never cease to be amazed by people complaining that speeding fines are a revenue-raising exercise. Of course they are. But it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that fines are completely voluntary. Don’t speed and you never pay.
Ralph Frank, Malvern East

There was rowing, too
It was disappointing to read Greg Baum’s article ″⁣Cheers to a year of good and better sport″⁣ (1/1) and not find a mention of any 2021 rowing achievements.
Two honourable inclusions from the Tokyo Olympics are the men’s four winning a gold and another gold in the women’s four. Both crews meet the dual criteria of great achievements and great sporting moments, particularly the men who broke a five-cycle drought since the ″⁣Awesome Foursome″⁣ won in 1996 at the Atlanta Games.
Rowing may have a lesser profile than some of the sports cited, however this does not demean the outstanding results. There should be more consistent coverage and recognition of Australian rowers by the media.
Thea Coull, Armadale

A hitch-hiker’s guide
What a joy to read Margaret Hickey’s story on hitch-hiking (The Age, 1/1). In my youth it was the only way to travel, didn’t have money for trains (too slow) or flying (too expensive). A mate and I hitched from Melbourne to Cairns and back in early ’78. We had no money. At one time we were able to buy a loaf of bread from the coins we found by the side of the road. During the final years of high school, every holiday I’d hitch somewhere; dad would drop us/me off at the Ford factory out on the Hume and off I/we would go.
So many adventures, so many extraordinary people met. The one thing I never did – sit by the side of the road waiting for a lift – always walked … into nowhere. My belief was that if I walked people would pick me up based on effort. Seems life is the same today for those who put in the effort.
Tom Stafford, Wheelers Hill

World upside down
How can Australia commit so many billions to far-off submarines when we read of the plight of Afghan families having to sell children to feed other family members?
The world is upside down.
Michael McKenna, Warragul

History lessons
Electioneering from John Howard’s playbook: campaign ″⁣Zero Chance″⁣ is the government’s first step. After all we don’t want people like that here (asylum seekers) they throw their children overboard and they carry Gucci bags. Demonising refugees and others who were brown and predominantly Muslim won John Howard the election he wasn’t meant to win. Scott Morrison is taking notes.
Sherine Hazelden, Box Hill South

Howard’s good points
In reeling off John Howard’s perceived failures your correspondent forgot to mention some of his shining achievements. Gun control legislation, restoring Australia’s AAA rating and the elimination of government debt that allowed Labor to ride out the GFC (and let Kevin Rudd claim all the credit), were some of Howard’s indisputable accomplishments.
Greg Hardy, Upper Ferntree Gully

Not humane treatment
In the 20 years since the “Tampa Affair”, successive governments have connived in a litany of cruelty to asylum seekers and refugees. Following John Howard’s refusal to accept 433 asylum seekers rescued by the Norwegian Tampa from a sinking Indonesian vessel came the preposterous lie that children were thrown overboard. Mandatory detention on the excised islands of Manus and Nauru denied refugees the right to apply for refuge in Australia. In 2013 Kevin Rudd declared that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”, resulting in indefinite offshore detention.
More recently, the repeal of the “Medivac” legislation resulted in many ill detainees being imprisoned in hotels and detention centres with little or no medical treatment. Some were arbitrarily and surreptitiously released into the community without medical or financial support, while others still await release without any knowledge of why they are still held.
And, of course, there is the family from Biloela who narrowly escaped deportation before being exiled to Christmas Island, and eventually obtaining temporary limbo in Perth rather than in their Biloela community. Add to all this the miserly response to the Afghan disaster, the ongoing refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer and the diminution of our humanitarian intake and we have a complete picture of an apathetic polity reluctant and afraid to “right the invisible wrongs”.
Will it ever end?
Lucille Forbes, Brighton East

Nurses’ workload
In a nursing career spanning four decades I’d never seen such high levels of sick leave among my colleagues as I did in 2021. Working across emergency departments, COVID wards and general wards (in three Melbourne hospitals), every shift I’d hear “anyone want to do a double?” to cover the shortfall.
Many nurses are working 18-19-hour shifts. Despite the high vaccination rates COVID continues to render our workload much heavier than two years ago. Patients present to emergency with cold-like symptoms (sometimes this is not even their presenting complaint) who we have to treat as potentially positive pending a negative PCR result which takes hours (this means isolating them and wearing full PPE). Not to mention many COVID-positive patients attending emergency.
After leaving work, we too suffer the same COVID anxieties (maybe more so due to our work?) and hassles as the general community. Nurses are fed up and exhausted, hence the rise in “sickies”.
Kay Vanos, Neerim South



Bring back Brett!
Barbara Lynch, South Yarra

I think I ″⁣enjoyed″⁣ the pandemic more when it was managed by chief medical officers, and not politicians.
David Cayzer, Clifton Hill

COVID is like a cat playing with the world like a mouse.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

The federal government is buying 50 million rapid antigen test kits. Will they be issued out of a pork barrel?
Keith Robinson, Glen Waverley

A happy start to the new year without a blue or yellow advert plastered across the front page.
Wendy Knight, Little River

Anthony Albanese, is a rail project that will never be economical the best idea you have to spend $500 million?
Damian Meade, Leopold

Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels would have been so proud of Donald Trump – if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick

2022 – the year to take action for the milder variant of climate change.
Jenny Smithers, Point Lonsdale

If speeding fines really aren’t revenue raising, as we are told by Professor Stuart Newstead , then perhaps now is the time to stop fining people and simply double the demerit points for each offence.
Neale Meagher, Malvern

I note the expression “well-known influencers” abounds. I would suggest “well-known inflammators” would be more appropriate.
Ken Finley, Mount Martha

Ralph Fiennes must be gutted a distant cousin called Ray Fiennes got his royalties for playing Voldemort (The Age, 1/1).
Victoria Watts, North Brighton


I made a resolution not to make any resolutions. So far, so good.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

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