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COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Community Safety

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I know we have spoken about this before that there are a number of people who have died of coronavirus disease. We have spoken about the impacts on the families in the north west. Impacts on those people are profound and long-reaching. It is really important to understand, as the Premier has said numbers of times, the sacrifices that have been made in this state, not only in people's lives and in families but in all the jobs that have been lost. All the restrictions have meant people have lost contact with each other and have been unable to do the things they have needed to do in everyday life. We do not yet know the cost of that in terms of mental health, of people losing businesses and jobs on a permanent level and the impact on children's schooling. So many other things are still to unfold.

Why it is important to come back to remembering the sacrifices is that Australia is at a very important point. On Friday we will hear from the National Cabinet the result of their views about where we are going to head in Australia as we look to the prospect of easing the social restrictions that have been in place for about six weeks now. This is a crossroads for us as a country. It has important and vast impacts for the whole nation and especially for us in Tasmania, this beautiful little island that we stand here representing and the people who love this place and who care deeply about the impacts that this virus has had on everyone who has been personally affected.

Here we are, Madam Speaker. We had four days of zero cases which, like many other members here, probably hurrahed every night when I saw that breaking news. It was excellent news and we look forward to hearing more of those news stories, but we have had a day now with two more cases. That is not surprising or unexpected. It just goes to show that we have to be ever vigilant and one wrong step, one false turn at this point, would cost us in people's lives and cost us a lot of money in terms of the economy. I am talking in terms of businesses and costs in health care and, of course, it would cost us with the sacrifices that people have already made that would have been in vain.

I want to make reference to where other countries have been at this point where Australia is making this big decision. The Premier is involved in that decision making in the National Cabinet. They have also been in discussions with New Zealand, which has taken a similar approach to Australia. Other countries such as Sweden took an early lead in Europe with the decision to go with herd immunity and they have had a devastating impact in terms of lives lost in that country. Unfortunately the United Kingdom subsequently adopted that false move, I strongly believe, by the Swedish government and started down the path of practising the nonsense idea of herd immunity for a virus which does not have a vaccine.

Since then they have backtracked but the cost for that false turn has been enormous. I understand 20 per cent of the population is on unemployment benefits, being supported with government money. That is an unbelievably high number, not to mention the unbelievably high number of deaths per 100 000. The United Kingdom deaths per 100 000 is 43 and they have so far had nearly 29 000 people die. That is a 15 per cent case fatality rate. Sweden has had 2769 people die. If that number was looked at in Australia pro rata for our population size it would be equivalent to 6500 deaths here. In Australia we have had, as of a couple of days ago, 96 deaths. It is a really stark comparison and shows us how a decision about restrictions and about how governments act can cost lives - real numbers, real people. Because we are all so connected in Tasmania I believe we most strongly understand of all the states and are most strongly prepared to take the restrictions and do what needs to be done to prioritise saving people's lives.

The National Cabinet will be looking at the report Roadmap to Recovery, which has been written by Australian universities. It is a very high level academic report that has done the economic and the epidemiological analysis and makes very clear that of the two options presented there is really only one option for the way forward and that is to eliminate the virus. The other option they investigated was suppression or controlled adaptation to the virus.

I am glad I was not on a debating team that had to debate that because that is not able to be justified by any rational measure. The report authors make it clear that going for elimination of the virus will lead to a psychological sense of safety and social wellbeing in the population. It will mean fewer deaths, and less serious illness and infections. It will also mean economic recovery, so I strongly encourage and support the Premier to continue down the pathway of elimination.