Australia has successfully beaten coronavirus, so why are we still in lockdown? Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP
Australia has successfully beaten coronavirus, so why are we still in lockdown? Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP

Bolt: What’s the government waiting for?

This is extraordinary. Why won't the Morrison Government tell us the sign it's waiting for to release us all from home imprisonment?

Why won't it level with us?

Haven't we already achieved everything the government - and the state premiers, too - once said was the excuse for imposing on us a virtual police state?

Its medical advisers told us a month ago we had to stay shut in our homes because up to 150,000 Australians would die from the coronavirus.

But just 63 of us have so far died. Even around the world the death toll is fewer than 130,000.

The government also told us we had to be banned even from sitting alone on a park bench so that we could "flatten the curve" of infections.

But that curve is now as flat as a pancake. For days we've had 50 or fewer new infections. Many more people are getting better than are getting sick.

It also told us it had to ban elective surgery so hospitals wouldn't run out of intensive care beds to save the masses dying from this virus.

But those 2200 ICU beds - and the many more emergency beds we've now added - have for many days had just 80 or so virus patients in them. Thousands of beds lie empty.

If all this isn't success, what is?

What exactly is the sign of success the government is looking for before these stay-home laws can be eased?

 

Australia has successfully beaten coronavirus, so why are we still in lockdown? Picture: AAP
Australia has successfully beaten coronavirus, so why are we still in lockdown? Picture: AAP

What is the key metric it's looking for to ease the restrictions that have cost hundreds of thousands of Australians their jobs and their savings?

We deserve to know. Yet when I interviewed Health Minister Greg Hunt this week, he repeatedly refused to say what the government was waiting for.

Was it when we had not a single new death? Hunt would not say.

Was it when we had no more infections at all? Hunt would not say.

Was it when we had inflection rates this manageably low for another week? Two weeks? Hunt would not say.

What's the big secret? Shouldn't we all know what the government is aiming for, and debate the costs and benefits of that target?

Clearly, it can't keep insisting these stay-home bans will last "six months", given Hunt admits the death toll is much, much lower than it had thought possible.

And what was so magical about six months?

It's just a date plucked from a calendar, and six months of these bans would drive many Australians crazy and many more broke, as well as leave our economy devastated.

I don't mean to criticise the government for what it has done until now.

Hunt is right to boast: "The steps we've taken have literally saved lives and they're making a massive difference, as difficult and as tough as they are."

Correct. All praise to Hunt and the rest of the government.

In fact, I supported the bans - and wanted more of them sooner - back when we had no idea how lethal this virus was or how fast it would spread.

Now the argument is a different one: where to go from here? Which bans actually make a difference, and which don't?

For instance, does Victoria's ban on even surfing and fishing make any sense?

Health Minister Greg Hunt says we can’t relax because a ‘second wave of infections’ might come. Picture: AAP
Health Minister Greg Hunt says we can’t relax because a ‘second wave of infections’ might come. Picture: AAP

Hunt told me we couldn't relax because a "second wave of infections" might come, as we've just seen in China and Singapore.

But what if it doesn't? We could be waiting months and months for a second wave that may never come, and wait at an horrendous financial and human cost.

Surely it makes sense to fight any second wave if and when it actually comes. We'll be far better prepared then, and can bring back all the restrictions we like when required.

Tasmania this week actually set a more realistic and affordable model for fighting a "second wave".

It had an outbreak of infections - 78 new cases - at two hospitals in Burnie. It blitzed that outbreak at its source, closing the hospitals and putting 5000 people there in quarantine.

This must be our future. Yes, let's have stricter quarantining of the infectious; better isolation and support of the most vulnerable, who are overwhelmingly aged over 70; and aggressive testing and tracking down of people who might have the bug.

But let the rest of us slowly get back to work to pay the monstrous bill.

Just tell us the key to start that great engine.

What is the government waiting for, and why won't it say?

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Originally published as Bolt: What's the government waiting for?


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