CM – We can’t be complacent about COVID

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Greg Barns’ attempted character assassination is intellectually lazy and out of touch with the deep fear and anger felt by the vast majority of Tasmanians.

Mr Barns has this deadly, disabling, rapidly mutating virus, Prime Minister Peter Gutwein has inflicted on an unwilling, inadequately vaccinated Tasmanian community, clearly not investigated. Like the prime minister, health minister, and hospitality and tourism industry lobbyists whose greed drove early reopening, Mr Barns downplays the real and increased danger for older, disabled, immunocompromised and unvaccinated children.

Medical science is clear , no variant of Covid-19 is « mild ». Any political leader or commentator who tells you this is lying to your face. They ignore developing science that confirms long-term effects on the human brain, heart, organs, and blood. This virus can damage our gray matter and affect cognitive function. Does Peter Gutwein really want that for Tasmanians? Public health experts warn that we are facing a mass event where tens of thousands of Australians are likely to suffer from Covid for a long time. The human cost, and the impact on our health systems and economies, will be profound.

The Tasmanians are told we have to « live with the virus, » but that’s only because Prime Minister Morrison has a let-it-rip Strategy and Peter Gutwein participates. In less than two weeks we went from being one of the safest places in the world to an “extremely high risk” Covid travel destination. Thousands of Tasmanians fall on both Omicron and Delta, with the daily number of cases being a massive undercount according to Public Health.

We don’t know the true extent of the infection because the testing and tracking system is breaking down. We know dozens of our healthcare workers are now suffering from Covid and our healthcare system is under a strain that will only increase as the number of hospitalizations inevitably increases. People on the waiting list for elective surgery will suffer longer. We now also know that the Omicron variant is not only exceptionally contagious, but can also be vaccinated. Tasmanians who have been vaccinated twice become infected and become very sick.

Of course, the border restrictions had to be lifted at some point. The question was always when and if we were ready. Under pressure from interest groups and political donors from the upper end of the tourism and hospitality sectors, the prime minister decided to reopen before Christmas, in time for the economic sugar hit of the summer tourism season. It was an economic own goal for the ages by Peter Gutwein.

The model on which the limit reset was based was for Delta. In the weeks leading up to December 15, it was clear that Omicron was a wildly virulent new strain of Covid. It was a turning point, but the prime minister persisted in plowing.

The virus arrived on the first flights on the first day. On the same day, NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet lifted all restrictions across the state. Inevitably, both Delta and Omicron shot through.

Mr. Gutwein blindly rolled out the welcome mat. For anyone who cannot book a PCR test, a rapid antigen test or a third attempt, it is clear that we weren’t ready yet. The island is rocking with shock and infection, and the best we can get from the premier and industry leaders are pleas to keep calm. Tasmanians are not silly, they don’t want Covid and they protect themselves wisely.

Tasmanians have been assured that the Gutwein government had a plan to protect them, but it clearly wasn’t. Restaurants, cafes, markets, festivals and tourism businesses are closing their doors. Nursing homes are closed. The commission of inquiry into the sexual abuse of children has been suspended. Jury trials have been suspended. Casual workers lose their income. The health system is collapsing despite the heroic efforts of health professionals. And worse is yet to come.

We urgently need a real plan that puts the health of our people first and gives the economy a chance to recover.

My Green MP, Dr. Rosalie Woodruff, is an epidemiologist. Here is her free advice to the prime minister. Temporarily reintroduce border restrictions to prevent Covid flooding. A brief sharp lockdown would help public health control rising infection rates. Do quick antigen tests for free for anyone in need. Reintroduction of density limits and restrictions for events. Encourage Tasmanians to upgrade to N95 or FFP2 masks to fend off Omicron. Accelerated vaccinations for risk groups. Encourage work from home. And stop telling Tasmanians that this version of Covid is « mild ». It may be less severe than Delta, but it still results in hospital and ICU admissions across the country.

That’s what Peter Gutwein should do, and that’s what commentators like Greg Barns should urge. Stay healthy fellow Tasmanians.

Education Secretary Courtney needs to explain in detail how to keep children safe in our schools during this escalating Covid outbreak
Cassy O’Connor MP | Press release | Jan 10, 2022

With a test positive rate of 50% and 2223 cases registered today, Tasmanians are suffering from the good wine government’s hands-free approach to Omicron.
Cassy O’Connor MP | Press release | January 8, 2022

The Supreme Court’s decision to suspend jury trials while the safety of those called to serve on juries warrants will result in justice being delayed for many.
Cassy O’Connor MP | Press release | January 6, 2022

Every day Covid is allowed to rage is another sick day in our community, local businesses have to close their doors and casual workers are losing income.
Cassy O’Connor MP | Press release | January 6, 2022

The Prime Minister, who effectively ceded Covid to the Tasmanians, has to show his backbone in the National Cabinet today.
Cassy O’Connor MP | Press release | January 5, 2022

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