VINTAGE WILCOX

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THE PANDEMIC

Looming question on how we prioritise healthcare

We need useful information about this (and future) COVID-19 variants. Case numbers do little except give a vague idea of the likelihood of locally acquired infection. With COVID-19 variants, we need to know the risks involved with acquiring infection, not the likelihood, and we need to know how that relates to our state of vaccination. Nothing else matters.

So, we need data to show us the severity of disease (hospitalisation, ventilation and death) after infection with Omicron versus vaccination status (i.e. the non-vaccinated, those with one shot, those with two shots and those with a booster). When that information is available, we will all be in a better position to assess risk and to choose how we live.

The only question remaining will be how we, as a society, prioritise scarce medical care between those who are sick from causes other than COVID-19, the few who require hospitalisation for COVID-19 despite vaccination and finally, those who require hospitalisation for COVID-19 having made the choice not to be vaccinated.
Donald Collie, Lorne

Glimmer of hope seems justified
With the new definition of a close contact, the QR check-in system does appear to be largely redundant and a waste of everyone’s time. Our best path forward is to ensure that high-quality rapid antigen tests are subsidised and readily available either free or for a token amount. Immunisation, indoor mask wearing, social distancing and self-isolation if symptomatic are all aspects of a sensible response to Omicron. There is no place for complacency, but Omicron has not led to the horror show that loomed just four weeks ago. Our health system is understandably tired, but not yet broken. The hope now twinkling in the summer sky seems justified.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Owning and managing risk remains elusive
Steven Hamilton and Richard Holden (“COVID exposes failure of foresight”, The Age, 3/1) sum up the incompetence of not only our initial response to the pandemic but the political expediency of what may occur in the future. Identifying risk, owning that risk and managing/mitigating that risk, with good planning and systems does not appear to be something our political class can comprehend.
Peter Roche, Carlton

What kind of life is it to be confined to your room
The federal government’s policy of “letting Omicron rip” has resulted in many aged care homes locking residents in and families out. In some aged care homes, residents have been confined to their rooms. Taking away a resident’s liberty by confining them to their rooms is profoundly damaging to their mental and physical wellbeing. Although aged care providers claim the lockdowns are to “save lives”, what type of life is it when you are confined to a room without seeing the people you love?
Dr Sarah Russell, Director, Aged Care Matters

Decisions made more on economics than science
The new definition of “close contact” ignores the more-rapid spread of Omicron. That and requirements for quarantine appear to be motivated more by economics than science. What would “close contact” be if we had sufficient PCR tests and staff to administer, analyse and report them? What would determine end of quarantine if we had enough PCRs, rapid antigen tests and staff?

Without a reasonably accurate count of case numbers and positivity, how will forward planning of hospital loading be more than a wild guess?

If we end quarantine when “time is up” versus using an objective, measurable test, how will we identify, quantify, and manage long COVID? How will we know a person’s viral load is truly gone before public exposure?

How do we ensure accountability of our policymakers, as they make decisions based on inconsistent, incomplete scientific data and more on economics?
Judy Bamberger, O’Connor, ACT

THE FORUM

Election a moral choice
Integrity in government is the key election issue. The establishment of a federal integrity body with real powers will cauterise pork barrelling and the buying of votes. Rigorous legislation will strengthen accountability and transparency of donations to political parties by lobbyists. If we get this right other things will follow: responsible action on the climate crisis and the environment; intelligent management of health and COVID-19; respect and equality for women; a meaningful voice and the closing of the education and health gaps for Indigenous Australians; and the humane management of aged care, the NDIS and asylum seekers. For voters it will be a moral choice.
Lesley Hardcastle, Ashburton

Please get vaccinated
I am 86 years old, have a lung disease caused by asbestos, and at Christmas I caught COVID-19. All the precautions were taken before our family had dinner on Christmas Eve. Everyone was double vaccinated and those eligible, had boosters. And on the morning of the 24th, my family all had negative rapid antigen tests.

Despite this, seven of 18 have tested positive to COVID. I have no doubt that the fact I am vaccinated and received the booster, just weeks ago, saved my life. To all those who doubt the science, and are reluctant to get vaccinated or are delaying their booster jab, please do it. Do it for yourself, for those you love, for the vulnerable and the community.
Eric Persson, Carlton

Age has little to do with it
The statement from her spokesman that Senator Pauline Hanson is “too old to sexually harass anyone” (“MPs complete harassment training, but register lags”, The Age, 3/1) shows a total ignorance of the meaning of the term. Sexual harassment is not necessarily a matter of propositioning someone. It can take many forms and age has little, if anything, to do with it.
Juliet Flesch, Kew

Policies not personalities
“… the willingness to take on difficult but necessary reforms is a measure of real leadership, which we have not seen for far too long” (“Debt and tax: the unmentionables”, The Age, 3/1).

If you accept that three years is “far too long” then this statement is true. Because we saw real leadership in 2019 with Bill Shorten and the raft of policies the Labor Party took to that year’s election. Australia would have been in a far better place had real leadership and real policies not been shouted down by the Liberals with voters opting for the vacuous Morrison and his do-nothing approach to governing.

To get the changes Australia needs, we have to change the government, whether that’s Labor governing in its own right or as a minority government with independents and/or Greens. But that is up to us voters. If every single one of us would look past the rhetoric before we vote. We need policies not personalities.
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

Nothing to do with God
Pope Francis’ claim that “violence against women is an insult to God” is paternalistic nonsense – a patriarchal loop placing women as “other”. Clearly the Catholic church doesn’t recognise women as equal humans. Such violence is not an insult to another male (the “owner” of the women), it’s a crime against women, who should be free of such patriarchal oppression. “God” has nothing to do with it.
John Laurie, Riddells Creek

Misplaced priorities
We pay millions to our executives, sports stars, actors, and others that do so little to deserve their excessive pay cheques, yet we pay a pittance to nurses and other health care workers who we may at some time rely upon to keep us alive and to care for us. It seems that society’s priorities and values are well and truly misplaced.
David Eames-Mayer, Balwyn

Logistics masterclass
Ginny West (Letters, 3/1) suggests the government has a major logistics issue. We make RA test kits in Queensland and sell these to the US, while we buy higher priced kits from China. That’s a Morrison/Hunt logistics masterclass.
John Bye, Elwood

Rail over road anytime
Damian Meade (Letters, 3/1) berates Albanese for promising $500 million for a rail project. Here in Melbourne we are about to spend four times that amount on a road project (North-East link) which was out of date 50 years ago, destroying what is left of the local environment in the affected areas and killing many people with air pollution. I would rather have a rail project.
John Merory, Ivanhoe

Leave the spin to Lyon
The first major political salvo of 2022 by Josh Frydenberg casting Albanese as a debt disaster is interesting coming from a Treasurer who has produced the highest debt in Australia’s history in which no surpluses will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. This coming from my local member who has just spent thousands on sending Christmas cards to all registered voters in his electorate, spin is best left to Nathan Lyon.
Rob Park, Surrey Hills

Not a lending library
David Parker (Letters, 31/12) complains “Out of a total of 60 pages, 23 were full-page ads (19 of which were Harvey Norman) with another three half-page ads. Plus a 24-page advertising insert for My Chemist”. Publishing so many ads, Mr Parker asserts The Age exhibits “Contempt for their subscribers, really”.

My thanks to Harvey Norman and My Chemist for providing The Age the revenue it needs to retain its reporters, columnists, editors and all its employees who are engaged in a working free press. A free press indeed, but not in the sense many in the public regard it. Have a morning coffee in any cafe and you may see one or two people reading a newspaper. It is likely the papers were provided by the cafe. If more readers bought a newspaper instead of treating it as a lending library selection (to be passed on and on); newspaper publishers would be less dependent on copious advertising.
Ken Feldman, Sandringham

Moral bankruptcy
Howard cabinet papers from 2001 were released this week, including those surrounding the Tampa refugee standoff and John Howard’s heartless and arrogant declaration that “we will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances by which they come”. From that moment, it became politically expedient to demonise refugees if it works to win an election. We were told they throw their children overboard. To our collective shame, a generation later, we are still doing it. Both major parties share in the moral bankruptcy of the way we treat refugees. They get away with this because not enough voters care enough about the plight of people who, but for the grace of God, could be you and me.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris

Labor must do better
There is huge environmental damage associated with creating high-speed rail corridors which by their very nature require straight tracks over new paths or they lose effectiveness. Thousands of trees cut down and wildlife habitat destroyed, and for what?

Why not spend the money on subsidised comfortable sleeping and high-quality eating services on existing infrastructure. High-speed rail will not service many towns between departure and destination or it is no longer high-speed rail. Tourists also want to see our country rather than let it pass in a flash. Surely all this you beaut latest and fastest must give way to the needs of the majority, rather than for the benefit of a few businessmen. Come on Labor, you can do better.
Vaughan Greenberg, Chewton

Time to go
The federal government never ceases to amaze. It designs JobKeeper with no drawback mechanism. It results in a $40 billion loss to the taxpayer. Now when we desperately need rapid antigen tests the government says pay for them yourself.

The price gouging is already evident. Packs of five selling at $79.99 in some pharmacies. How do pensioners, the unemployed, single-parent families cope? How many kits would $40 billion buy? It’s time this mob was shown the door.
Hans Pieterse, Narre Warren North

Not their fault
Apparently, we are supposed to look after and manage our own health now. “Get your own test. Take some personal responsibility.” That would be good if tests were available. That would be good if the pandemic was over. It is about time the government took some personal responsibility for its own actions. Deaths in aged care? Not its fault. Failing to procure vaccines? Not its fault. Problems with distribution of vaccines? Not its fault. Failure to provide adequate quarantine facilities? Not its fault. Opening up too early? Not its fault. Healthcare systems being overwhelmed? Not its fault.
Greg Tuck, Warragul

Non-aspirational
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg states that Labor’s policies lack aspiration. Aspiration for whom? For Australians wanting to better contribute to society, further their career and future financial security through formal education in university and TAFE colleges, and non-casual employment? For the strengthening of fairness and democracy? For a nation and world less threatened by climate change? On all these issues, the Coalition’s policies are almost unbelievably negatively non-aspirational.
Jennifer Gerrand, Carlton North

AND ANOTHER THING …

Politics
In one meeting, national cabinet confused everyone!
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

As long as there is no good news to announce, Scott Morrison can remain in hiding as he has done for most of the pandemic.
Geoff Phillips, Wonga Park

Again we can look forward to a world-class high-speed train that runs every election year.
Tony O’Brien, South Melbourne

Here is another $500 million waste of public money – the war memorial extension in Canberra.
James Lane, Hampton East

COVID-19
Will the cost of RATs now be included in ABS cost-of-living statistics and what will be Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s response?
John Boyce, Richmond

Is no one noting what is happening overseas? Omicron is rampant, highly infectious and doesn’t take four hours to infect someone.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

With the first two tests in the bag after strong performances from Delta and Omicron will COVID make a clean sweep?
Joan Segrave, Healesville

Yes, bring back Brett.
Helen Hanrahan, Lower Plenty

No more tax cuts – spend that money on free RAT tests for all.
Patricia Rivett, Ferntree Gully

Furthermore
Your report on food fraud (The Age, 3/1) is yet another example of “can do capitalism”.
Peter Carlin, Frankston South

“Drynuary” for Dry January? Oh dear. I’m all for mindful boozing, but surely we can be mindful about our use of the English language as well.
Lindsay Zoch, Mildura

Pope Francis’ pledge to give women greater roles in the church (The Age, 3/1) will continue to ring hollow until women are admitted to the priesthood.
David Seal, Balwyn North

LR – I find it quite insulting that my insulating didn’t fit.
Barbara Greenaway, Mount Eliza


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