I am the first to admit that I am biased in my views. I am definitely well left of centre, politically. And my obsession with Climate Change means that the current Australian Government has pained me significantly almost daily since the last election. A sense of hopelessness poisoned my summer as I watched all my fears come true with the terrible bush fires, hundreds of thousands of hectares burning, soaring temperatures and horrific numbers of wildlife deaths.
So those are my colours.
Now we face COVID19. It seems that the Australian power structure is balanced in such a way that the Federal Government is expected to manage the economy while the states are expected to manage their own health budgets.
ScoMo wants the schools open to enable as many parents as possible to go to work and continue driving the economy. Meanwhile the States are nervously watching the numbers of confirmed cases rise and watching the mayhem in the USA, Italy and other parts of Europe. Australia boasts only 2000 ICU beds in the whole country. I don’t blame the State Premiers for getting nervous.
So here’s the thing. There’s a guy called Tomas Pueyo. He writes a mean article about COVID19. I’ve read two of them and I’m linking his name (above) to the more recent one. He is an engineer. How, you might ask, does that qualify him to talk about COVID19? Well, he doesn’t write about medicine. He writes about probabilities and statistics and he loves a good graph (sources supplied). These are right up the alley of an engineer, according to P (who ought to know). If you read Pueyo’s article you will see why we took our kids out of school early and why I lean more toward the State side of politics in this case.
That being said, I am terrified for huge proportions of our populations. Casuals are being laid off. So many people simply don’t have work. I know people in event management, hospitality, and tourism to name a few. And then there’s people who want to work but can’t because they have kids at home or because their work involves person-to-person contact (eg. physios, dentists, OTs etc) and they are at risk for personal reasons. For the first time since Tony Abbott wrenched power from Kevin Rudd (part II), I am not furious with the Coalition. I understand why ScoMo is anxious about the economy. I understand that, in its own way, the economy is as important for people’s health and safety as the hospitals are. And I understand that nurses and doctors have kids too and ScoMo wants all the nurses and doctors on duty, helping to cope with the health crisis. It’s tough love for those families. But I understand the reasoning.
Yesterday’s Signal episode interviewed an Epidemiologist at Melbourne University. His view was that Australia has 48 hours to decide between two options. We either lock down now and commit to 2-3 months of extremely restricted activity in a bid to eradicate the virus altogether from this island. After that, we could resume as an isolated economy and potentially go back to a kind of normal (except with minimal physical interaction with the world beyond our shores). OR we do this “flatten the curve” thing that everybody talks about. This involves letting the virus go through the population in as controlled a fashion as possible, probably incurring more fatalities but, the upside being, the economy may not take such a blow. From the way this guy spoke though, I feel like the line between “flattening the curve” and completely losing control is so fine that I’m not sure any government really knows how to achieve it. I think it is hubris to think that we can outwit this invisible enemy with any subtle means.
I guess that takes me back to Tomas Pueyo. His article is called The Hammer and The Dance. That describes that “fork in the road” of which the epidemiologist speaks. As much as I understand the dilemma our government faces, I do not believe they have the knowledge or the finesse to dance with this beast.
So that leaves the hammer.