Time to abandon elimination strategy

Time to abandon elimination strategy

AS ONE of six million in the greater Sydney area now looking at the possibility of lockdown extending to four weeks, these are tough times.

But they are the toughest for small business. The CBD café owner on Sky News this morning who faces no customers but a $14,000 per month rent bill is emblematic of why we can’t go on like this.

According to media reports, the Berejiklian Cabinet is divided about whether or not to let the virus run in the community.

It seems pointless to continue an elimination strategy when we are only months away, under Scott Morrison’s road map, from abandoning lockdowns altogether.

Why not abandon them now and live with the virus?

The Premier rejected that today.

“We do not have the option of living with this,” she said.

“We have to quash the community transmission. Because if we don't, we will see thousands and thousands of people in hospital, and lots of people - thousands of people, potentially, dying.

“Until we get those vaccination rates higher, we do not have the luxury of considering living with this virus.”

But is this overstating the threat of the Delta variant?

Sure, our vaccination levels are low compared to other countries living with Delta, but it seems that while it is more infectious it is less harmful.

Questions like this that go to the validity of the zero cases strategy are not asked at the daily press conferences.

If the hospital system is not being overrun and the vulnerable are protected, situations we by-and-large appear to have achieved, we need to be able to get on with life.

Yes, there are risks with having Covid and its Delta variant running in the community.

No one knows the long-term side effects of having contracted Covid. Conditions from fatigue to impotency have been reported from what has been dubbed “long Covid”.

And no one knows the long-term side effects of taking what are experimental vaccines. People have had immediate adverse reactions, blood clots and there have been deaths.

What we do know is that hundreds of millions of people have both contracted Covid and have had vaccines and appear to be doing just fine.

While we are learning rapidly, there is still much uncertainty and each pathway is fraught with risk.

But we have to accept risk if we are to come out of our cocoon.

Also, information about treatments such as Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine have been suppressed and not properly investigated to see what role they should play in the pandemic response.

This has stoked mistrust at a time when people must be able to have confidence in public health advice.

Many are wondering if people have died needlessly.

Within months every Australian who chooses to take a vaccine will have had the opportunity to have had at least one jab.

And therein lies the flaw in Morrison’s road map out. He is currently seeking expert advice to determine an acceptable vaccination rate at which to move to Phase 2 – no more lockdowns and state border closures.

But it will be the Australian people who determine what percentage of the population is vaccinated, not expert panels.

If we don’t reach the threshold prescribed, the government can’t continue to hold the nation hostage to lockdowns.

Only Israel has reached an 80pc + vaccination rate.

Morrison has said vaccination is voluntary and there of course can legally, ethically and morally be no other position.

There are profound ethical questions around mandating vaccination for aged care workers but there is no way teachers should to be forced to vaccinate.

The criteria for opening up must be when everyone who wants to be vaccinated has been – nothing more, nothing less.

We should reach that point by Christmas or soon after – hopefully earlier as vaccine supplies ramp up.

That’s when we should move to the Singapore model. Treat the virus like the flu and stop reporting case numbers. Instead focus on reducing hospitalisations and preventing deaths.

It’s also vital that we don’t create two classes of Australians based on the choices people make with their health.

Unvaccinated people must not be banned from work, leisure or travel pursuits. Their choice must be fully respected.

Equally, they must respect those who choose to take the vaccine and not view them as sell-outs to Big Pharma.

There’s no room for self-righteousness on either side. This will test our tolerance for one another.

Everyone must take personal responsibility for their choice.

While eliminating the virus has worked well for most states, the time has come to abandon that strategy.

We’ve had no Covid deaths this year and very few hospitalisations – even with super-spreader events here in Sydney.

Yet the cost is eyewatering. Trillions of dollars on the federal and state governments’ credit cards for our kids to pay off is a terrible legacy following what will go down as one of the biggest overreactions in history.

A trailing erosion of our freedoms is also unacceptable, as much as politicians and bureaucrats have enjoyed opaque command-and-control decision making. QR code check-ins must be ditched as soon as we get to the end of Scott Morrison’s road map, if not before.

Of course, saving lives must be our priority but doing so must also be proportionate.

What’s happening now is not. We can’t go on like this.

Lyle Shelton is Director of Campaigns and Communications for the Christian Democratic Party. The Reverend Honourable Fred Nile MLC has nominated Lyle to succeed him in the NSW Parliament when he retires in November. To keep in touch with Lyle and the CDP, sign up here.