COVIDs back: Will we all work together again in 2022?
As we turn to face a new year, for many, 2022 is still an unknown as we again find it difficult to plan too far ahead with any certainty. It is therefore understandable that many people just want to return to the known and comforting rhythms that life would bring during the summers and autumns of past years.
In our first year of COVID, we were able to navigate the year without a vaccine because we saw a coming together of many peoples for a common good; different governments or communities all working together to make sure we were all safe and nobody was left behind.
At the beginning of this year, we were led to believe that we had survived the worst COVID could throw at us and there wasn’t any rush to get vaccinated. As we now know, 2021 didn’t turn out as planned, the vaccine rollout was a mess, COVID returned and so did the lockdowns. Right now, we are hearing a similar message from our Federal and some State leaders– a message that we can now return to our ‘old normal’ and ‘lockdowns’ are in the past.
The question we ask at Health Consumers Tasmania is – have we learnt from our COVID experiences from the past, so we don’t make the same mistakes again?
From Health Consumers Tasmania perspective, we see that the presence of COVID has been a constant while two significant factors have changed during this period: firstly, that Australians, for the most part, are now vaccinated, and the second thing that has changed is sadly, the ‘coming togetherness’ of 2020 has now evaporated.
To the one constant that hasn’t changed – COVID. The new variant Omicron is again an unknown and is causing a lot of nervousness amongst Tasmanians. In this case, we believe we have learnt from the past and we do know that the Tasmanian Government has done an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to keep our at-risk people safe – for example, the introduction of COVID@home is a great initiative.
The two factors that have changed over this period may work against each other – the high proportion of people being vaccinated and the unravelling of the ‘in it together’ approach that we saw during the first wave.
Having many in the community vaccinated, we believe is a good thing, but the World Health Organisation still warns that vaccinations alone are not enough to keep us all safe and they advise authorities that they need to consider using all the other measures that we have at our disposal: like wearing masks, social distancing, crowd limits, personal hygiene, and lockdowns if we want to successfully live with COVID. The problem is that many people are ‘COVID fatigued’ and becoming upset when these options are put back on the table. Their feelings are reinforced by some of the confused messaging that is coming out of Canberra and some other States that imply that these safeguards are no longer necessary.
The other area that has changed and is of concern to Health Consumers Tasmania is that we have lost our focus of looking after those who are most at risk in our communities and are leaving them to look after themselves as our borders reopen.
Award winning Tasmanian disability advocate Ana Pike said “We used to hear ‘we are all in this together’. That message has now shifted to ‘take your own personal responsibility’. We, the chronically ill and disabled, are feeling very alone and disposable right now.”
There are many people in Tasmania who are now too nervous to leave their homes for fear of catching COVID.
The clear message is that if we, in Tasmania, are to overcome this new COVID variant and make it through to Easter, we all must work together. Whether you’re a GP, a pharmacist, a business owner, a worker, a friend, or colleague, we all have to pull together and look after each other. Remember, there are 75,000 Tasmanians out there right now, 13% of our population, who cannot receive a vaccination because they are under twelve years old and are too young to be vaccinated.
The inconvenience of wearing a mask, or not being able to travel, or not being able to attend an event, needing to isolate or quarantine should be a minor price to pay if it keeps our at-risk Tasmanians safer and our children healthy.
CEO Health Consumers Tasmania