Observing the coverage of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, there seems to be a glaring flaw in our response here in Australia. We have the advantage of assessing the response of China and Italy but we must act quickly.
The current strategy of incremental measures to address the unfolding pandemic and the drip-feed of economic measures each day will not work to head off the health disaster and concomitant recession/depression.
The dour face of doctor Norman Swan, as he has spelt out the nature of this health disaster many times on the ABC , says it all. His call for a more aggressive lockdown with the intent of ‘flattening the curve’ to protect the health system is falling on deaf ears.
Quite simply, the only way to avoid the chaos gripping Italy now is to enforce a major lockdown across Australia impacting the maximum number of people possible.
The Chinese experience shows that this type of approach can stem the increase in new cases to near zero.
What we don’t yet know is what happens when the lockdown is eased off. Presumably the virus will reactivate but with a carefully calibrated easing of restrictions, the number of new cases can be kept below the threshold that overwhelms our health system. Infections will continue, and deaths will be inevitable but the mortality rate can be kept to maybe under 1%, in contrast to the near 8% being experienced in Italy.
The economic downturn caused by this type of severe lockdown will be great and government must find ways of supporting all of society but this level of downturn will be dwarfed by one involving chaos in the health care system and the panic that would follow.
This is where the government needs to articulate a plan to overcome the pandemic and end the economic paralysis building in the system. It’s all about the sentiment and confidence that can be created. At present the future looks ever bleaker and the path narrower.
The plan must explain the need for the severe lockdown, how people will be supported, the value of building ‘herd immunity’ as the lockdown is eased off and the hard facts that we have to live with ongoing infection as we rebuild.
People need to understand that this pandemic and associated recession can be overcome without a vaccine. Yes, a vaccine will be found and it will speed up the recovery but we can still prevail and recover if we plan carefully and communicate the process as clearly as possible.
At present the daily news cycle of reporting the ad hoc restrictions to slow the pandemic and the drip-feed of economic stimulus and ‘cushioning ‘ is not reassuring either the populace or the markets. There is no horizon and the future looks progressively bleaker. We need a light at the end of the tunnel and only leadership and a well communicated plan by government can give us that light.