If anyone had any doubt whose interests Scott Morrison’s federal Coalition government is pushing in its increasingly shrill campaign to lift COVID-19 restrictions, the September 1 open letter from the CEOs of 80 of Australia’s biggest corporations has now settled the question.
The open letter acknowledged “the effectiveness of lockdowns in suppressing the virus last year, and in slowing its spread today while we vaccinate the population,” but also quickly added that “As vaccination rates increase, it will become necessary to open up society and live with the virus, in the same way that other countries have done”.
“Live with the virus” is corporate Australia’s slogan of the day, but what will this mean for the community?
The Australian Institute’s Ben Oquist responded on Ticker News saying “we don't want to have a plan that living with Covid becomes dying with Covid”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the 80 corporate CEOs all demand that state governments commit to the National Plan to transition Australia’s COVID-19 Response agreed to in late July by the national cabinet.
But as Oquist told Ticker News, “The danger is that big business is pushing the government to do something that is not as concrete as people think. There is no freedom day coming … when borders will magically open up and all lockdowns will be gone and all restrictions will be lifted.”
States will act differently, he added, depending on their levels of vaccination and their levels of virus spread.
The Coalition politicians wave around the Doherty Report but neglect to mention that even it concedes that many other factors will shape what needs to be done when Australia reaches 70-80% adult vaccination levels and that “we’ve learned from watching countries that have removed all restrictions that there is no ‘freedom day’”.
The Doherty Report assumes not only high levels of vaccination — and we are nowhere near that — but also a good health system and the ability to contact, trace and test.
Even with these brave assumptions, the Doherty Report predicted “opening up at 70% vaccine coverage of the adult population with partial public health measures, we predict 385,983 symptomatic cases and 1,457 deaths over six months”.
We have also seen in NSW how COVID-19 hits the most exploited and marginalised sections of the population harder.
Moreover, there are gross disparities in vaccination levels between rich and poor, and between First Nations peoples and others.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation on August 1 wrote to Scott Morrison requesting that no further steps to re-opening are taken until the health care system capacity was expanded, and there was a proper assessment of safe vaccination targets (including for vulnerable populations and other high-risk groups), the impact of Delta and future variants on children, and contact tracing capacity.
These are important issues for the community and we at Green Left have more faith in nurses than in over-paid corporate CEOs and the politicians who serve them.
We need your help to keep exposing the lies and distortions not only of the far-right extremists leading the anti-social, anti-lockdown protests but also their more mainstream campaigners rallying around the Morrison governments demand to “come out of the cave” and open up regardless of serious public health risks.