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Sixty-three deaths, 32,000 new cases in a day - so when did we lose interest in Covid?

Opinion

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to claim dozens of lives each day, yet the rising toll barely causes most of us to blink an eye. What changed? asks Madonna King.

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Covid is not a thing. Of course, it’s not.

That’s why our politicians have stopped talking about it. That’s why we’ve stopped the lockdowns and the border closures. That’s why we’re telling our teens “to get over it and get on with life”.

Life is normal again. So the narrative goes.

But how, then, do you reconcile this. Yesterday 63 Australians died of Covid and 32,989 were Covid-positive, with experts saying the real number of cases is probably double that because of those who hadn’t registered positive RATs results or even been tested.

More than 3000 people lay in a hospital bed, and further 108 were hooked up to apparatus in intensive care units.

Or how do you reconcile the new advertising blitz – which you will pay for – to try and increase Australia’s uptake of the Covid vaccines?

A rear-vision mirror provides wonderful perspective. And on every measure, it’s hard to hand out a congratulatory certificate to any of our governments for where we sit, today, on a pandemic that is continuing to dominate too many lives.

If you don’t think it is, try and visit a loved one in an aged care home. Or try to get a teenager into a psychologist. Or listen to a three year old, as they dress dolls in masks, before taking them to a “pretend” doctor.

It’s lucky a “pretend” medico is being sought, because it’s unlikely they’ll get into a real one.

Policy by crisis is now the preferred modus operandi of governments – state and federal. Big rules. Big decisions. Damning statements. Press releases that ooze empathy.

And then nothing.

If we’ve really learnt from a pandemic that stole too much in recent years, why aren’t we making decisions differently? Why aren’t rules and laws and advice the same in different parts of the country?

Why are workplaces torn between employees working from home or the office? Why aren’t schools operating as normal – with the same excursions and milestones that were championed five years ago?

Why haven’t we “disrupted” the way we do medicine – and don’t tell me Telehealth is the new whizz-bang thing. Try diagnosing a throat infection online. Or measuring a bloated stomach on screen.

Covid, in a policy sense, was a spike in the demand for government-rule. And now it’s been superseded by floods and cost-of-living issues and even the flu, where people are just as sick.

Many doctors can’t diagnose that though, because they won’t see patients who might have similar symptoms to Covid – and that rules out a host of complaints from stomach aches to sore throats, a cough to muscle aches, a temperature to diarrhoea.

That’s understandable, perhaps. But how are we going to do things better, post-Covid? And if we are still mired in its mess – and the daily tallies suggest we are – what are we doing about it?

Our aged are fearful of going into homes that should promise care, but are delivering isolation.

Our children are seeing school as an on-again, off-again activity and curriculum-catch up is a real thing.

Our teens are not being given the chance to take the risks and make the mistakes their parents did, on the way to adulthood.

We’re reducing everything we do, including our expectations.

Don’t we elect governments to look at the big picture of how we crawl out of 2019, 2020 and 2021 with renewed vigour and optimism and a determination to put this pandemic in its place?

Don’t we elect them to work together to create a long-term strategy that doesn’t mean absolute lockdown one minute, and then a free-for-all the next – with no discernible difference in the bottom line?

This flu season looks like a cracking big problem. But we are weary of the scare campaigns. That’s why six million Australians haven’t had their third Covid dose. That’s why we are not lining up for free flu shots.

That’s why we are not registering positive RATs tests, or even testing in the first place. (Perhaps that’s also influenced by the price of RATs where a single test for a family of four comes in at $50 each time).

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is one of Aesop’s fables, and its lesson is as strong today as it was way back when.

But just in case we forget, Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick provided us with a timely reminder this week. After promising no new taxes, he delivered what? New taxes.

As always, there’s fine print. The pledge, it seems, was to the people of Queensland, not the businesses of Queensland.

And then politicians wonder – whether it’s Covid, the flu, taxes or something else – why we don’t believe a word they say.

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