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Young's reality check on restrictions: 'We can't stay as we are - this is not tenable'


Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young warns life won’t suddenly return to normal with a coronavirus vaccine and says young people could become “a totally lost generation”.

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For the past ten months, Jeannette Young has been deftly guiding the state through the worst health crisis she has ever experienced in her career.

While many Australians have been holding out hope for a vaccine, Dr Young has warned it may not be the silver bullet many are hoping for.

“I don’t know what’s going to get us out of this,” Dr Young said of the pandemic.

Speaking at an Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) breakfast in Brisbane, Young told a crowd of health professionals a firm return-date to normality could not be solely based on future vaccinations or treatments.

“A vaccine is not going to just suddenly enable us to go back to what we were,” Young told the event.

“They’re talking about it probably being 50 per cent effective.

“The predictions early on for Queensland — we were expecting to see around 10,000 deaths in the first wave.

“If we just let it be and you’ve got a vaccine, that means half out of all of those [may still die].”

‘We can’t stay as we are’

But Young conceded current COVID-19 “processes” were not sustainable long-term.

“We can’t stay as we are, we just can’t — this is not tenable to continue,” she said.

“It’s not good for mental health, let alone all the other issues and our economy.”

During the event, which was aimed at highlighting the mental toll the pandemic has taken on people, Young was asked how she coped with personal and professional pressures throughout the year.

“At the start of this, I just was not sleeping at all — I was terrified,” she said.

She revealed she had started exercising daily in a bid to help with the stress and this had “really anchored” her.

‘A totally lost generation’ of young people

During her speech, Young said she was not surprised COVID-19 was impacting the mental health of young people the most.

“I think our young people as a generation are really going to struggle,” she said.

“If we don’t give them some hope and some ability to enter life, they’re just going to be a totally lost generation going forward.”

“I think that’s where we’ve got to put as many resources as we can.”

Young has been Queensland Chief Health Officer for the past 15 years.

This is the second pandemic she has managed and she credits the success Queensland has had in comparison to other states to its experience in dealing with disasters like cyclones.

“Because we know how to prepare for things, we have really good systems in place,” she said.

“Government works well with the senior bureaucracy and people understand what needs to be done and do it.”

Young said timing was key and when Australia was heading in the “exact same direction” as other countries, Queensland responded quickly.

“No one ever makes decisions in days, that just never happens — except in a disaster, and that’s what Queensland turned on very early,” she said.

“That was the big difference.”

– ABC / Talissa Siganto

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