Terry Slevin, PHAA CEO
So much has been written and said about the COVID-19 pandemic, much of it bordering on hysteria.
Just occasionally you find an article that resonates. Maybe it was the headline ‘COVID lockdown highlights the best of our society, not the worst’ that caught my eye.
Yes, you read that right! Read the headline again. No hysteria, No blaming. No shaming. No, us, and them.
ABC journalist and broadcaster Stan Grant’s in-depth analysis Read the full story of our current predicament, where an estimated 12 million of us are locked down with no idea how long this will last, is a sensible, considered, well researched piece which sets a new standard in responsible reporting of the pandemic.
This article provides a rare reality check for Australia. It acknowledges the tensions created by the worst public health crisis in our lifetime. It acknowledges mistakes have been made along the 18-month pandemic journey. But it also shines a light on the sacrifices being made: sickness and death; tens of thousands queuing daily for their COVID tests; friends and families separated for weeks; businesses again shut down and workers stood down.
Stan Grant is correct when he says ‘we are seeing the best of our society, not the worst.’ He wants us all to think again when we refer to our current COVID plight as a crisis.
He points to our near neighbours Indonesia, which is now recording more than 50,000 cases a day. That, he says, is a crisis!
Compare that to Australia today.
‘Sydney, generally with fewer than 100 new cases a day and with the majority of those already in isolation, is not in crisis by comparison,’ Grant writes. ‘For those who sadly end up in hospital, then we have a world-class health system to treat them; something that is not the case for so many other places in the world.’
Grant fires a shot at the Australian media – of which he has been a part of for decades – for creating unnecessary panic, fear and alarm. He questions why we have chosen to overlook or diminish the success we have achieved against COVID.
‘We forget how remarkably Australia has performed. Through good management, some good fortune, responsible government, and a great commitment from ordinary Australians, we have managed to largely escaped a pandemic that has ravaged the world,’ Grant says.
Perhaps his most salient point is a reminder that, as terrible a blight the pandemic has been on our nation, Australians ‘live with risk and ill fortune or poor health – even death – every day.’
He warns that the near obsession with COVID is diverting our attention from other very real risks.
Globally, six million people died from air pollution last year – two million more than recorded COVID deaths. Worse still, around nine million people die each year from hunger and hunger related disease. These problems will remain long after COVID has passed.
Grant reminds us there were 11 million hospitalisations in Australia last year, a small percentage resulting from the pandemic. Every year more than 1,000 Australians die on our roads. Around 50,000 die from cancer, 20,000 die from heart disease and around 3,000 people take their own lives.
Governments, all governments, have admitted things could have been done better. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been doing their best, and on the most part, having followed expert medical advice, they’ve made all the right calls.
‘Democracies are a partnership of government and people and it is that partnership that will get us to the other side of COVID, if we don’t damage that compact in the process,’ Grant says.
And finally, a call from Stan Grant for calm.
‘People can survive this without the media or politicians whipping up fear or throwing around words like ‘crisis’ and ‘war’ with no context of what real crisis and war look like.’