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OP-ED: Now is Not the Time for Coronavirus Complacency

Thursday 28 May 2020, The Examiner

While it’s great that we can start to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle with some of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, and more to be lifted in coming weeks, it could all come to a sudden halt if we go back to normal too quickly, and who knows just what the new normal will be. I question whether we are starting to become a bit complacent with fewer daily infections recorded as we must remember that while the northern hemisphere is going into summer, we are heading towards winter, our typical flu season.

We are told the key is to transition slowly, to avoid a second wave should we let our guard down too soon. Unfortunately, it only takes one infected person to kick it all off again, and we know how quickly it spreads. It is important for our mental and physical health that we enjoy life, see, talk with and relate to family and friends, but let’s not kid ourselves that the enemy has gone.

With restaurants and cafes, many of whom have been open with takeaway options, now able to take that further step of some in-house service, albeit 10 people per dining area to start with, it is up to all of us to make sure we continue to observe social distancing and other measures put in place so that they and we can continue to move forward. My family have loved takeaway meals, and I enjoy a welcome relief from cooking, hence doing what we can to help these businesses remain viable.

It is good to see people are now visiting our national parks and reserves with some restrictions lifted, but I query the restrictions for recreational fishers, as in the Launceston municipality there is no direct sea access as available in other areas. While I appreciate and support keeping our coastal communities safe, I fail to see the difference between someone checking their shack for the day, possibly visiting the local takeaway and getting fuel, with a person towing a boat and enjoying a day’s fishing before heading home. While I endorse the need for caution, in this case, I can’t see the common sense.

It is interesting to see as of Mid-May, that various districts in China, Germany, Iran, South Korea, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have re-imposed lockdown measures after a spike in coronavirus infections. Obviously, economic reasons can trigger the decision to ease lockdowns, and that can’t be discounted, but we need to ensure that the pain and suffering already undertaken by many in our country and state, hasn’t been in vain.

Our Premier Peter Gutwein, and Health Minister Sarah Courtney have deservedly been lauded for the decisions they have made with regard to this pandemic and it is hope people will remember the hard decisions made were about saving lives rather than money when the cost of unemployment and net debt is fully known later this year. We should never forget that these people are not superhuman and have feelings and families just like the rest of us. In particular, our Premier, Health Minister, Chief Medical Officer and Secretary of the Department of Health have put their lives on hold since this pandemic took over. They have done the best they could in very difficult circumstances and unknown territory, and regardless of anyone’s political persuasion, they have managed this situation well. It is extremely sad that there have been 13 deaths recorded and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to those families as one death is too many.

To all our frontline staff wherever they work, emergency workers, hospital and medical staff who continually go above and beyond, and these include domestic staff, orderlies, security and virtually everyone who doesn’t know if they will come across a COVID-19 case that day at work, but go nevertheless, thank you. Thank you really doesn’t seem enough.

I not that some states are now clashing with border wars over interstate travel with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian claiming states keeping their borders closed were hindering the nation’s economic recovery. At the end of the day in the context of this pandemic, I believe each state has the right to protect their own economies and communities in a way they see fit and not be bullied by other states.

Medical health experts around the world warn that returning to normality too quickly could risk a second wave of infections. One can only imagine the economic disaster that would befall us if we have to go back to severe lockdowns and for this reason, it is incumbent on all of us to keep up the social distancing as much as possible, stay home when we can, and not shop unnecessarily. We are not quite out of the woods yet.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC


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