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LIVING WITH CORONAVIRUS
Mandates seem to have passed their use-by date
Major business groups are refusing to allow employees to return to working from home, because they perceive a risk to the “fledgling economic recovery” (“Employers spurn health advice on remote work”, The Age, 11/7).
The fledgling recovery won’t get off the ground if it’s weighed down by unnecessarily high COVID-19 transmission rates. That’s what you get when you force people into crowded workplaces.
Businesses and governments must continue to listen to and act on the advice of state and federal chief health officers.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills
The bicycle helmet campaign has valuable lessons
In the early 1980s, the Victorian government sought to make the wearing of bicycle helmets mandatory.
The public reaction against this was so vehement that the government backed down and instead mounted a public information campaign about the benefits of wearing them. This had an immediate impact in turning around public sentiment and in the longer term was so effective that by 1989 there was 83 per cent public support for bicycle helmet use and a public campaign calling for mandatory legislation. This legislation came into effect in 1990.
There are lessons here for the governments of today. Rather than just giving up on mandates for mask wearing and calling on people to “do the right thing”, governments could be explaining to us how masks break down the transmission cycle, the risks of transmission in particular settings and the effectiveness of particular mask types. This would generate wider public discussion and lead to informed decision-making.
Who knows, it could lead to demands for mask mandates.
Jeff Moran, Bacchus Marsh
Some people don’t seem to get it
Yes, the mask mandate is at an end and, during an election year, highly unlikely to return. I disagree, but I get that.
Yes, several correspondents are of the opinion that a probable rate of 55,000 Victorians with COVID-19 is not a problem. I disagree, but I get that.
I am a pharmacy after-hours on-site nurse who sees patients with (mostly) minor ailments between the hours of 6pm and 10pm with the aim of keeping them out of the emergency department. Many of these folk complain of, or display, respiratory symptoms. They expect me to examine them at close quarters.
I do this job in conjunction with my roles as an ICU and vaccination nurse and wear an N95 mask and safety goggles at all times. I would like members of the public who want to avail themselves of my services to get that, yes, I would definitely prefer that they wore a mask and did a RAT prior to attending.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk
Businesses have their heads in the economic sand
Deja vu with my morning coffee about the attitude of Victorian employers to advice from state and federal chief health officers to consider allowing employees to work from home. The lessons of lockdown were clear, but have somehow become lost in a “long COVID” euphoria.
The health of the economy depends on the health of the population: post-COVID economic recovery can only occur to the extent that the workforce remains fit for work. Disruption and delay are occurring in so many areas as a direct result of increasing viral infection.
When the health advice is that restricting face-to-face contact is the best way to control the spread, it’s disappointing to find businesses with their heads in the economic sand.
Denying the evidence of the pandemic is as foolish as denying the evidence of climate change and, in the long term, just as economically irresponsible: a short-term view we cannot afford.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
We need some guidance
We have had to use several rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 in our house recently. The maker we used provides plastic bags labelled “biohazard waste” for disposal of the waste from each test.
Having worked in the public hospital system for more than 40 years I know biohazard waste must be kept separate from normal waste and disposed of correctly, which includes incineration.
To ensure I was following the right procedure I rang our local council for advice. I was told to wrap the biohazard waste bag in either more plastic or paper and dispose of in our normal waste. Unsure I had received the correct advice I rang again and spoke to a second person who confirmed what I’d been told.
If this advice is consistent across all councils, then we may already have, conservatively, more than 1 million biohazard bags in landfill in this state. Not only that but they will be wrapped in recyclable material.
Surely in 2022 we can do better than that. Why hasn’t the Health Department issued advice to the general public on the correct way to dispose of this material?
Brian Tait, Blackburn North
Why we’re staying away
My wife and I are both over 70, had both boosters and had COVID in February, but the current variants are a real concern. We, and many, many of our friends, do not go to restaurants, shopping centres, the city or use public transport.
Last week, however, we visited the National Gallery (we are members) but won’t go there again soon: on the train in our carriage there were about 20 passengers. Three, including us, wore masks. At the gallery the foyer was crowded with no distancing, there were few masks, so we skipped the Picasso, turned around and returned home.
Our hospitals are overwhelmed and we cannot risk infection. There are many like us, we are not noisily demonstrating for “freedom”, but we do need stronger action to slow the spread.
Russell Shiells, Glen Iris
A reason to believe
Beautiful article by James Valentine (“My faith is personal and beyond belief”, The Sunday Age, 10/7). His belief in love, hope, truth and his fellow human beings epitomises an honest understanding of faith and spiritual beliefs.
Thank you, James, for articulating what it means to have faith in each other and for offering a deep connection with your readers.
Give me this type of faith any day as it gives me a reason to believe in a better world and my fellow human beings.
Julie Ottobre, Forest Hill
A chance for progress
Finally there is some ray of hope in our relations with China, and the country’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, has reiterated that the previous government was adversarial towards them (“China offers pathway to warmer ties”, The Age, 11/7).
Rightly or wrongly, that is his belief and I must confess, I share his view.
We now have a chance to make some progress, but opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham immediately accusing China of being dishonest isn’t going to help things. He is now in opposition and he needs to keep quiet and leave our reconciliation with China to the newly elected Labor government, which has already made more progress than the government he was part of.
John Cummings, Anglesea
An unacceptable choice
Anne Summers (“The choice for many women: violence or poverty”, Comment, 11/7) has nailed it once again.
That domestic abuse victims are forced to choose between remaining suffering in violent relationships or leaving and enduring the dire consequences of economic poverty is not acceptable.
Much more needs to be done, not only to ensure that those who have left violent situations and those that would choose are reasonably supported, but also that the root causes of such violence are relentlessly identified and responded to.
Brian Marshall, Ashburton
We need these numbers
I wonder how much of the claimed skills and worker shortages are due to COVID and the flu? Many others may be avoiding jobs with high public contact, such as hospitality, in order not to get infected.
It would be interesting to find out before we make decisions on using migration to meet the demands of business.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove
Now for Julian Assange
Full marks to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for dropping the prosecution of Bernard Collaery. It is a clear message that whistleblowers should be protected and that secret trials have no place in a democracy.
Full marks also to Foreign Minister Penny Wong for publicly revealing that she “raised” the cases of Australian journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun (The Sunday Age, 10/7) with her Chinese counterpart. It is a clear message that Australia will stand up for the human rights of its citizens in detention overseas.
For consistency, Wong and Anthony Albanese now need to do the same for Julian Assange, whose rights were abused under the previous government’s consular assistance that amounted to wilful neglect. They need to be transparent about any representations they have made about Assange. We are left to wonder: have they or have they not? Will they or will they not? When?
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has detailed the psychological torture Assange is suffering. More than 400 medical doctors in the group Doctors for Assange have echoed his call and warned that his life is in danger. Firm diplomatic intervention is needed urgently. Quiet diplomacy implies no urgency and is inadequate in this case.
Con Pakavakis, Richmond
Missing a key component
Roshena Campbell’s advocacy of following Boris Johnson’s “Red Wall” UK Conservative campaign (“Red walls of triumph and ignominy”, Comment, 11/7) overlooks a key component of that campaign: the lies.
They lied about the benefit to the National Health Service. They lied about the free trade deals that would flow post-Brexit. They lied about fishing rights. And perhaps most tragically, they jeopardised the delicate peace that is holding in Ireland.
Not a recipe to follow.
Dick Davies, North Warrandyte
Leave the door open
Your correspondent (“The heart of the issue”, Letters, 11/7) rightly questions Australia’s devotion to the alliance with America at the expense of retaining some independence and flexibility in its foreign policy.
Perhaps Penny Wong’s recent meeting with China’s foreign minister signals that the Albanese government is prepared for some strong but balanced diplomacy with Beijing.
When countries like China seek to dominate and unduly influence other counties their behaviour must be called out but negotiating channels must be left open.
There will always be differences in the thinking of national governments, and skilled diplomacy will remain the most peaceful and effective way of dealing with these differences rather than the sabre-rattling standoffs we have seen recently.
Graeme Lechte, Brunswick West
A ludicrous situation
Well said (“It’s not a recycling bin”, Letters, 11/7), Tasmania has deserved a standalone team in the AFL ever since its inception. That it hasn’t had one is because Tasmania is a foundation Australian rules football state and the AFL has been trying to grow the game in non-Australian football states.
So now we have the ludicrous situation where interstate financial basket-case football clubs such as the Gold Coast, propped up and existing merely because of massive contributions from the AFL, are having a say on whether Tasmania should have a team.
There are many things that are wrong with the way the AFL has developed over the years, but failure to include a standalone Tasmanian team has to be the most egregious example.
Graham Bridge, Morwell
What took it so long?
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s decision last week – to permit fourth-dose COVID-19 vaccines for those 30 and over – warrants comment.
It has been clearly evident for months in official data on COVID-19 deaths that the daily number is growing.
Data from Europe showing how highly infectious variants BA.4 and BA.5 are, has been available for months also – especially from Portugal.
The added risk posed by influenza after two years of lockdowns was also recognised long ago.
ATAGI states its vision is to protect Australians from disease that can be managed by vaccines.
Why it waited until nearly the middle of winter to authorise boosters is puzzling. Winter will be nearly over before there is any major impact of these fourth doses on population health and mortality.
Some people might say ATAGI could have planned better and acted more quickly.
Alun Breward, Malvern East
The key to wildlife’s revival
How wonderful to read about “rare and elusive” plains wanderers making a comeback (“It’s a breeding boom for plains wanderer”, The Sunday Age, 10/7).
As so often seems to be the case, habitat protection has been key to the birds’ revival.
Therein lies a lesson for the fate of the plethora of other endangered wildlife: all 65,000 hectares of touted new national parks across the state must be speedily legislated by the Victorian government. Such legislation would demonstrate real and permanent commitment to tackling both extinction and climate crises.
Amy Hiller, Kew
Possums welcome here
Your correspondents (“Working with the possums”, Letters, 11/7) are both to be applauded.
We, too, have welcomed and encouraged these beautiful possums into our garden and delight in the interaction of feeding them with bananas and apples. They even climb on our arms to be fed by hand.
These wonderful creatures tend to leave most of our plants alone, which are both native and exotics.
Caroline and Peter Shepard, Brighton
AND ANOTHER THING
Sorry if I confuse your correspondent (“Choosing to ignore paranoia and enjoy life”, Letters, 9/7) but I find it 100 per cent easy to get on with living and enjoying life while wearing a mask to protect others and also myself.
Victoria Watts, North Brighton
Slip, slop, slap, adjust your seatbelt and put on your face mask wherever you go. It’s that easy – take responsibility for your own life.
Margaret Skeen, Point Lonsdale
The anti-maskers are at it again. If you don’t want to wear one, at the very least, spare us the lectures on personal rights. I will listen to the medical advice on masks and not your world views.
David Fry, Moonee Ponds
In the Djokovic-Kyrgios final, I didn’t know who not to support.
George Djoneff, Mitcham
Nick Kyrgios, too colourful for Wimbledon.
Graham Cadd, Dromana
Thank goodness Wimbledon is finally over.
Peng Ee, Castle Cove, NSW
Tennis champion Novak Djokovic finally wins a court battle against an Australian.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
Deaths from COVID are more than collateral damage, business leaders should leave the health advice to the experts.
Peter Baddeley, Portland
How many deaths are acceptable? If it were the road toll action would be taken. Rules are acceptable on the road, why not with COVID?
Doris LeRoy, Altona
Easier access to COVID antiviral drugs won’t solve the real problem, which is gaining a GP appointment within a five-day window.
Ian Powell, Glen Waverley
The US, the UK and Australia are in no position to lecture China concerning the treatment of minorities.
Barry Revill, Moorabbin
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