COVID CONTRADICTIONS IN MELBOURNE: I’M ANGRY

I’m angry and frustrated.  After 8 weeks of hard lockdown, which followed 4 weeks of significant lockdown, finally – yesterday – restrictions were ‘eased’.  But so limited are the changes, and so full of contradictions, with another 3 weeks before anything else happens, it’s very depressing.

The ‘Easing’ of Restrictions

So, with average case numbers down to around 15 a day, a 14 day average of 25 (against a target range of 30-50), very few community transmissions, here are the generous ‘easing’s:

  • No curfew (no justification was ever given for this anyway)
  • Up to 5 people from 2 families can gather outside  (previously 3)
  • Childcare to resume without permits (previously only certain ‘essential’ people)
  • Personal training for groups of up to two participants
  • Garden maintenance services
  • Outdoor swimming in pools
  • In-home childminding allowed for all
  • Dentists can resume non-urgent work (previously urgent only)

All within an unchanged 5km distance from home, and an unchanged 2 hours outside for exercise.

The Current Situation

Almost all daily cases are related to existing clusters.  Most of these cases relate to aged care homes and/or health workers.  We are rarely given the specific information of how many unknown community transmission cases occur, even though this is the main target for future easing.  Yesterday, there was only 1 – yes, only 1 – community transmission case.  There were apparently 31 over the last 14 days (the next target is less than 5 for a 14-day period…).

Most postcodes have zero cases.  Only a few council areas have more than 10 active cases.  In any country or area of the world (except possibly New Zealand, Taiwan and a few others with small populations), Melbourne would be a shining star.  Yet we continue to be treated as if we are criminals, with heavy fines for violations of the rules.

Contradictions in the ‘Easing’

  • If swimming is allowed, why not outdoor sports, such as tennis, golf and cricket (where players are rarely near each other at all)?
  • Why can’t we drive to larger outdoor parks and gardens for exercise?
  • If physios and dentists are operating, why isn’t hairdressing allowed?
  • Why can’t large, well ventilated retail stores, such as Bunnings, Target, Kmart which have good covid track records, open?
  • If builders and maintenance workers can go, why can’t people travel to holiday houses for maintenance (the fridge hasn’t been opened for 6 months…), if they observed the same rules there?
  • Why can’t cyclists cycle further than 5 kms from home (that’s about 15 mins or less for a reasonable cyclist)?

I’m sure there are lots more contradictions you can think of.  There have been lots with every set of new rules, which seem to change every few days.

What is the Government’s Aim Now?

In the first wave, the aim was to ensure the hospital system wasn’t overwhelmed, though this was rarely made explicit.  In the second wave, due to slow decisionmaking, covid almost got away from us.  Fear that this might happen again seems to be driving the current extremely cautious policy ‘easings’, though no one seems too sure what the ‘policy’ is. 

Implicitly it seems the real policy aim is to reach zero cases, as the rest of Australia has reached (more or less, excluding international travel quarantine cases).  If that is the aim, why not state it?  Why state ‘less than 5 community transmissions in a 14 day period’ (and why that level (scientifically speaking)?

Why Am I Angry?

I’m angry for lots of reasons.  Angry, because the government was too slow in getting control of the second wave.  Angry more, because it refused to admit it did anything wrong, and seemed unwilling to learn from its mistakes.  Angry, because the hard lockdown rules have been left in place too long (decisonmaking too slow again).  Angry, because for all the stated stakeholder consultations, the government doesn’t seem to be listening to those who are most affected.  And angry because, when the ‘easing’ has finally arrived, it’s so minimal for most people, it again fails to offer the hope and motivation that could so easily have been offered (decisionmaking too slow yet again!).

Hopefully, we the people will save ourselves.  We’ll act better and get better results and eventually force ‘our’ government to reward us.  But for now, it’s back to Netflix, Zoom and gardening.

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