We have given up. Two years after the emergence of Covid-19, and three months after the Omicron variant emerged, our brave leaders have waved the white flag and boldly declared, “We surrender.”
Our sensible public health measures meant that for much of the first two years, life was more-or-less pre-Covid normal. But at the first excuse offered by the Omicron variant, we heroically declared that we couldn’t be bothered.
We declared that the hassle of wearing a mask was a more serious problem than the illness and death caused by a virulent pathogen. That 50 deaths a day was a fine price to pay for the right to go to the shops without checking in.
This consensus was not just bipartisan but virtually universal, egged on by all segments of the political and media classes. The health experts advising government bravely threw the vulnerable under the bus, declaring that most of the people who would be killed had pre-existing health conditions or were old anyway. Never mind that 47% of Australians have pre-existing health conditions. They don’t count.
We heroically sacrificed the most vulnerable so that we could get back to the office faster. The half million Australians who are immunocompromised were told to choose to stay home forever or die.
We ignored the expanding chorus of evidence on the long-term impacts of the pathogen, and the thousands or millions who would suffer ongoing effects and reduced quality of life. We ignored all the lessons which the first year of the pandemic had taught us. If you’re asymptomatic, don’t worry about it. You don’t really need to stay home for the whole infectious period – think about all the work days you would miss. The air in workplaces is special – the virus doesn’t spread there.
We ripped the mask off both literally and figuratively, declaring that bosses weren’t really responsible for providing a safe working environment. Not if that would require any action at all.
At a time when they needed us to take sensible steps for public health so that they could have some kind of normal, we sacrificed the most vulnerable among us.
Sixty-one Australians died yesterday. Twenty-seven thousand were infected. Tomorrow, NSW, Victoria and the ACT remove even basic public mask mandates.
The ACT, where a Labor-Greens government is nominally the left-most in the land, recorded 929 cases yesterday, a number which has only been exceeded on 12 days in the last two years. Tomorrow, masks are no longer required in public spaces.
We have surrendered.
We have accepted the mass death of the most vulnerable in our community. We can’t be bothered taking even basic safety precautions so that they can have some kind of life.
Wearing a mask is not hard, is not a trial, is not any kind of serious imposition. Having to check in at public venues so that cheap, automated systems can trace exposure risks is not a harrowing trial. Do we really care so little for our fellow countrymen that we’ll sacrifice them for so little?
The answer, sadly, seems to be yes. We have become so utterly selfish that the expression “to avoid it like the plague” is going to have to be retired.
If we are reassured that we aren’t personally at risk, it seems we won’t do anything at all to avoid a plague. Screw the vulnerable. We want to go to the pub.
This pandemic has revealed a callous indifference at the core of our society, a cancerous rot in our collective soul.
In the before-times – in 2019 – Bernie Sanders asked, “Are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”
Since then, faced with a global pandemic, we have answered firmly, “No.”