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Guns, leaf blowers and science - things we must remember for next pandemic

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Next pandemic, and there will almost certainly be one, the Shooters Union wants people to be able buy guns and ammunition, while the Australian Medical Association recommends the end of leaf blowers.

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A wide cross-section of the community has told a parliamentary inquiry into the COVID-19 response how Queensland should deal with the next pandemic and almost uniformly applauded the government over its handling of the issue.

The Shooters Union, however, claimed the closure of gun shops was political and questioned whether it was even legal.

“The direction was so restrictive in its terms that firearm dealers who operated mixed businesses could not operate that portion of their business that did not deal with firearms, even where the firearms section was physically quite separate to the rest of the business,’’ the Shooters Union said in their submission.

“It became obvious that the Chief Health Officer had little or no idea of how the rural sector operates in Queensland.

“The inescapable conclusion, which most in the industry reached, was that the aim of the direction was simply to close gunshops, with little or no regard to the effect on the rural sector, the livelihood of gun dealers, or the impact of the closure on the spread of COVID-19.

“This decision serves political purposes only, unnecessarily resulting in a negative economic impact to small businesses, and has no correlation with the objectives of the Health response.’’

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said his group accepted the medical opinion about the dangerousness of the coronavirus and consequently that a state of emergency, but that did not mean we “must follow the science” without question.

“Even in apparently well-established areas of science, there can be points of difference. Secondly, a society in which we did whatever scientists told us to do would no longer be democratic and pluralistic. It would be a form of authoritarianism,” Cope said.

Despite the controversy Queensland Health directions caused, the Office of Health Ombudsman received about 525 complaints and enquiries that related to COVID-19.

In its submission the Australian Medical Association said there were very strong concerns about the lack of personal protective equipment.

“It was reported that over 70 per cent of Queensland doctors at the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis did not have sufficient PPE,’’ the submission said.

“In addition to this, 53 per cent had to dig into their pockets to buy masks and other PPE for themselves and their staff.’’

It said there was some evidence to suggest that viral transmission may be increased with air pollution, especially particulate matter and the Government could make Brisbane cleaner by “ceasing the non-essential leaf and dust blowing in parks and streets”.

“Blowers resuspend small particles which remain airborne, exposing those nearby to the polluted air. In addition the excessive noise impacts on mental health, with increased concerns due to COVID 19.’’

The AMA also recommended the establishment of an Office of Sustainable Health Care.

The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute said any investment in medical research should be seen as an investment that will reduce the cost of future pandemics and that it should be the home for a Centre for Infectious Diseases Control.

QUT’s Faculty of Health said telehealth should become a permanent part of health care while the Office of Health Ombudsman said there appeared to be no clear, single point of contact for all enquiries that could provide all relevant information.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitoners said there were instances where “a lack of restraint and critical and objective reflection in more traditional media’’ has generated and circulated misinformation and invited reactions against necessary public health measures.

This included “unwarranted and over-exuberant promotion of cures and progress in vaccine development’’, demonising populations and inflaming grievances against state and territory governments.

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