Passengers wear face masks as they arrive at the departures terminal at Sydney Domestic Airport in Sydney, Australia on Nov 5, 2021. (BIANCE DE MARCHI / AAP IMAGE VIA AP)
No one in Australia talks about the COVID-19 pandemic anymore. It no longer dominates the news and has hardly rated a mention during the general election campaign.
Public health measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, quarantine and contact tracing – measures that were applied to suppress the pandemic over the last two years – were quietly removed, to the relief of the business community
Public health measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, quarantine and contact tracing – measures that were applied to suppress the pandemic over the last two years – were quietly removed, to the relief of the business community.
Much of this happened in the run-up to Christmas as the Delta and Omicron strains were taking hold. Deaths and numbers of cases have since skyrocketed, even with one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.
Despite the surge in cases, most state premiers have been determined to hold the line, allowing the virus to circulate in their communities, which critics have labeled the “let it rip” approach.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Australia totaled 7,807 as of May 15. The number of cases was 6.64 million, with 45,000-plus cases daily over the preceding week.
Western Australia, the last state in the Commonwealth to hold out against opening it borders, finally did so on March 3. Case numbers have risen from a few hundred daily to 25,000 daily cases as of May 15.
Nationwide in January, 1,519 COVID-19 deaths were reported – 49 per day, making it the leading cause of death in Australia, ahead of ischemic heart disease. A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that there were 2,865 excess deaths, or 22.1 percent more than the historical average, in January.
Health and aged care workers are exhausted. Teachers are exhausted. Employers are finding it difficult to fill positions as workers self-isolate after contracting the virus.
General practitioners who have been on the front line of the pandemic response are now on the front line of the clean-up. There are two years’ worth of missed check-ups, delayed tests and mental health concerns.
Professor Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University in Queensland, told China Daily: “As we cannot stop exposure (to the virus), it is important we learn more about who is still getting very sick with their infections, and whether there are ways we can prevent that.” She urged looking at “how easily people can access antivirals and if certain subgroups are more vulnerable and need better information or support”.