In the United States, which seems to be the point of reference for the right-wing freedumb protesters in Australia, the pandemic has been politicised to a lethal degree.
“Right-wing state legislatures like Montana’s have rushed to stop employers from requiring vaccines despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines protect people from COVID-19.
Last week, Texas governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order preventing governments and school districts in the state from requiring people to even wear masks. [4 August 2021 NBC News]
A similar politicisation has developed in Australia, with political divisions being sharpened over pandemic issues. We are moving into election campaign time and things could get nasty.
A recent case in point was the controversy over the administration of a booster shot, a further protection against the virulent omicron variant.
The Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, advocated the time between the second vaccination and the booster be reduced from five months to four.
Federal Health Minister Hunt said this was; “Utterly irresponsible, utterly inappropriate, utterly unworthy of someone who wants to be a Prime Minister.” [23 December 2021 Sky News]
Only one day later he announced that booster shots will be reduced from five to four months from 4 January and then down to three months after January. [24 December 2021 Sky News]
In NSW the new Premier Perrottet told NSW to take personal responsibility for the virus as the QR code, masks and track and tracing were dropped. [8 October 2021 Crikey]
Epidemiologic expert Professor McLaws responded:
“I see that the NSW Health Department and Minister of Health are abandoning public health responsibilities and focusing on only hospital cases. …… Hospitalisation can be manipulated.” [18 December 2021 Independent Australia]
Former independent MP Dr Kerryn Phelps was also scathing in her response, pointing out that in the same week that the Omicron variant started to take off exponentially, virus control measures were being dropped. [20 December 2021 Independent Australia]
NSW Health Minister Hazzard predicted 25,000 cases a day by January 2022 at the same time the Premier was announcing the abolition of control measures.
Norman Swan, host of RN’s Health Report, and commentator on ABC TV’s 7.30 tweeted on 24 December suggesting that this figure of 25,000 is already with NSW.
“In the US last year the underdiagnosis rate ranged from 7-10. So let’s take a fair midpoint, say 5. That’s 5×5000 = 25,000. Let’s take last year’s rate (3) and it’s still 15,000 a day. That’s why if you live in Sydney, by now you know someone who’s got or had COVID.”
The leaked Doherty Institute modelling projecting 200,000 daily cases was based on the assumption that it would occur if nothing was done. [22 December 2021 Guardian]
Perrottet was forced to respond. Masks indoors were again mandated. Immediately after Christmas social distancing measures in indoor venues returned and “QR check-ins will also again become compulsory in hospitality and retail.” [23 December 2021 Yahoo Sport]
Perrottet’s hands off approach was mirrored by PM Morrison. He was lambasted by Quentin Dempster, a Walkley Award journalist, on Twitter on 23 December 2021.
‘It’s now apparent this response is politically calculated to hold LNP’s anti-vax anti-government base, now being incited by Clive’s UAP billboards & ad blitz. Thus are we governed. UAP = LNP.”
If this is correct we have a major problem.
The ASIO caseload of homegrown violent far-right extremists has grown from 40% to 50% in just a year.
Some of our elected officials must see advantage in the provocation and threats that are being uttered in the controversy to allow it to continue.