Nothing prevented states from devising a better quarantine alternative. You should join Scott Morrison in accepting the blame for Victoria’s recent outbreak.
(Image: Gorkie / Private Media)
Another suspension due to another hotel quarantine failure. Melburnians face restrictions for a week because quarantine failed in South Australia.
And James Merlino, the apparently long-term Prime Minister of Victoria, rightly blames the federal government for its vaccination and quarantine failures. But not all of the fault lies with Scott Morrison.
Victorians have to endure the consequences of Morrison’s botched vaccination rollout, right. The government predicted back in March – based on its lower, revised schedule, reflecting supply issues – that it would have dispensed over 11 million doses by now. We’re currently at around 4 million, or barely a third of that – a level we should reach in early April.
Likewise, the government’s refusal to plan additional quarantine capacity beyond a modest expansion of the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory and to rely on an obviously inadequate hotel quarantine. This despite warnings in its own review last year that “the hotel quarantine system is vulnerable to breaches and difficult to fix”.
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This failure is becoming increasingly deeply negligent – not only because of the lockdowns required by quarantine violations, but also because of the Australians who remain stranded overseas and, in many cases, are harmed due to limited quarantine capacity.
However, this report by coalition favorite Jane Halton was available not only to the Morrison administration but also to state and territorial governments, as was the lessons of Victoria’s catastrophic violations last year that killed hundreds and billions of people – mostly of Victorian seniors of people cost dollars.
It’s not just the Morrison administration that hasn’t used Australia’s success to build a safe, high-traffic quarantine system, but state governments as well. Nothing stopped them from setting up quarantine facilities to house arriving people – especially if they want to facilitate the return of economically important foreign students and tourists.
It is true that coordination between state governments is needed to prevent exactly what happened in Victoria – a failure in another state’s quarantine has led to an outbreak in Melbourne. But that is not beyond the realm of possibility.
But then there is apparently the cost.
When the New South Wales government launched the idea of expanding quarantine capacity for overseas students in April, it stated that it must be purpose-built student accommodation used to quarantine arrivals. The risk of repeating the hotel quarantine mistakes was obvious.
The Victorian version hovered in a different hotel – albeit with “ventilation assessment and renovation work if necessary”.
That said, state governments preferred to try to make an existing, flawed model work better, despite ample evidence that it would continue to fail, rather than investing in a more robust solution. And to reiterate, the exact same thing could be said of Scott Morrison. There is a lot to do here.
One area where Scott Morrison owns the troubled castle, state, and barrel is in residential care for the elderly and the disabled. Of the three parts of the vaccine rollout, states control the increasingly important vaccination centers for health workers on the front lines and now for pretty much everyone. General practitioners control the second part with vaccines provided (or in some cases not provided) by the federal government. The Federal Ministry of Health controls the third part, the introduction of care facilities for the elderly and the disabled in dormitories, with the help of outsourced teams of private contractors.
We’ve already covered this debacle, but it’s getting worse. And it must be reiterated, this is an utter shame and seems to reflect a contempt – consciously or unconsciously, whatever you like – for Australians with disabilities in the minds of Canberra’s bureaucrats and the politicians who control them.
In these sectors there are around 320,000 employees in the care of the elderly and the disabled and 190,000 residents. These 510,000 people should be fully vaccinated by the end of March, despite attempts by the Ministry of Health bureaucrats to reject the prime minister’s and health minister’s commitments. Up until yesterday, nearly 340,000 vaccinations had been carried out in these sectors – the vast majority in elderly care facilities. The disability sector was generally instructed by the bureaucrats to do this themselves.
Worse still, vaccination rates in these sectors have slowed dramatically this week. After evidence that the acceleration of the rollout promised by the bureaucrats actually took place a few weeks ago, that momentum has faded and this week will be the poorest week in months, barring a massive surge in numbers yesterday and today.
Now elderly and disabled residents in Victoria who are not vaccinated are at risk of being overtaken by the latest wave. Cross your fingers, that won’t happen. If so, the responsibility for this shameful outcome rests with both state and federal politicians and their bureaucrats.
What is to blame for Victoria’s recent COVID lockdown? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name so it can be published in Crikey’s “Your Say” section.
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