The Year We Wished Wasn’t!

2020! Wow! What a year.

In Oz, we faced huge bushfires throughout the summer. In my home state, South Australia, we were choking on the smoke of fires a hundred kilometres away. Kangaroo Island was burning. At one point, it looked like the whole island was in flames and everyone would have to be evacuated, leave the island to burn. Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania were all burning at one point.

A couple of our premier wine regions were either destroyed or threatened by fire this year. I don’t drink, personally, but the fact those wineries are there, providing services, employment and great scenery, that cannot be overlooked. I wouldn’t know what to buy people for Xmas if I couldn’t buy them a decent white or red.

March saw us begin battle with a new wildfire, Covid-19. All good plagues emanate from Africa, China or the Americas. Ebola, Bubonic Plague, Spanish ‘Flu (which should really be called US ‘Flu, as that’s where is came from originally, but now has the title of 1918 Pandemic), and now, Covid-19.

The Corona Virus has been around for a long time, but this one -19, is particularly savage. It is evolving and the next may be even more devastating.

Amazingly, there has been so many different approaches in our responses to the Coronavirus. The Swedish “herd immunity” response, the US “it’s fake news” response, the British “Okay we can soldier on” response all the way up to the New Zealand “Complete Shutdown.” response.

Which has been most successful do we think?

Conservative governments didn’t want economies to die so opted for ignoring it altogether or reducing shopping hours and few social restrictions. New Zealand went all out and spent three or four months in lock down. NZ is now almost completely unfettered by the virus. The only recorded cases in NZ are, I understand, coming in from overseas. Also, New Zealand’s deaths have stayed at 25 since the 16th of September.

The US, on the other hand, had no leadership to begin with, and the few people willing to speak out were not supported by the Administration. Today, another nearly 2500 people have been reported as dying in the last 24 hours. The number of infections in the US will be more than 4 times NZ’s entire population of 5.1 million people, by January 1, 2021. At nearly 350,000 deaths, NZ’s 2,151 total cases is a single day’s deaths in the US.

Sweden too has run into major problems with its responses. On the 29th December, Sweden recorded the same number of deaths in the previous 24 hours as NZ had in total. At double the population of NZ, Sweden has 200 times the number of cases and 340 times the number of deaths.

Australia too has not fared much better. At 25 million people Oz has had over 28,000 cases and 909 deaths. People here thought we had it under control but there are new cases in the community that have been tracked back to asymptomatic carriers who had arrived from overseas. One cluster is quite serious and will likely only grow. The response here was not the same as NZs, until Victoria had a major problem.

Victoria threw the book at it and eventually, the entire State went into lock down. State Premier Andrews really did get attacked for it, initially for “mishandling” the quarantine procedures, then for locking down the State, then for not opening it up once the apparent danger had passed. The results have been spectacular, Victoria quashed it’s cases, allowing the State to reopen for Xmas.

The main reason there has been so varied a response to the virus has been “economic”. Seems money is more important than people. Oz’ PM, Scott Morrison was extremely critical of the NZ response, laughingly referring to the 12% economic downturn, comparing it to our 7% downturn. There has been dead silence from PM Morrison since the last economic growth figures came out with Oz’s growth at a ‘very creditable’ 3%, but did not compare it with New Zealand’s 14%.

Taking a short term hit for a longer term gain, seems an effective strategy. It’s that short term thinking that dictates conservative views over an over again that has prevented a similar strategy around the world. Okay, NZ and Oz are both island nations making it easier to isolate as compared to most other nations, but that doesn’t explain how we’ve had such outcomes compared to the US and many other nations.

And, by the way, former very Conservative PM, John Howard, interpreted Donald Trump’s election loss as a rejection of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. (And crisis it is.) Howard has been astute enough to recognise that people are responding positively to the strong leadership shown by NZ Prime Minster Adern, Premiers Andrews, Marshall, McGowan, Palaschuk, Berejiklian. Why Oz PM, Morrison, is ahead in the polls though, escapes me. His leadership has been woefully inadequate, right from the start, but then, there has been no real analysis of his multiple failures.

An article at this address, is really indicative of what Howard was talking about, and that was written a full year before the Coronavirus burst onto the scene.

Stay safe, stay well, and have a better 2021.

About colinfraser

I claim the title of educator, because I want to be more than "just" a teacher.
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