You are here

COVID-19 Research

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 5 May 2022

Tags: COVID-19

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I move -

That the House takes note of the following matter: COVID-19 research.

Mr Speaker, we are at a critical juncture in Australia and around the world. The COVID 19 pandemic is not over. We in Australia are facing a situation with waning vaccine effectiveness and we are coming into winter. We have a number of new variants raging around the planet and in Australia and we seem to have absolutely dropped the ball on the management of the pandemic and. To all intents and purposes, it would look to an alien looking down on Australia and Tasmania that we have learnt nothing from the pain and suffering that started in 2020. We are confronted today with a situation where governments have pushed COVID-19 utterly to the sidelines, wishing that we could move on as though we lived in some fantasy life of our own makings.

The virus does not respect political boundaries. It does not respect ideology. It does not respect elections and all of the noise, hyperbole and denial of science that goes along with Australian elections. Today I want to acknowledge the 56 Tasmanians who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 43 have died in the last four months, since January. Across the whole period in Tasmania we had 13 people over two years who died, while in the last four months we have had 43 people die. Their families and friends are grieving. We are all affected by the impact of people dying from COVID-19 one way or another. In Australia we had 96 Australians die from COVID-19 in the last two days alone. We had 43 416 new cases in Australia yesterday and 1078 in Tasmania. Nearly 140 000 Tasmanians have been infected with COVID-19, almost all of them since the borders were reopened.

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in Australia. It is the biggest reason that Australians are dying today and yet there is absolutely radio silence about this in the media and there is a complete absence of interest for politicians to continue to look at the difficulty and reality of managing a global pandemic. We are living in a world where two years ago every single person who died from COVID-19 was honoured by members in this place and respected for the gravity of that death and the impact it had on our communities, yet today we have had 43 people who have died since Christmas and there is barely a scant mention unless people such as the Premier and Minister for Health are confronted with questions at a press conference and asked about it.

It is not a topic of conversation. We do not want to talk about it because, according to Liberal Scott Morrison, our Prime Minister, the COVID-19 pandemic is over, except if he wants to invoke it because of cost-of-living issues, in which case all of a sudden he says, 'Let's not forget the COVID-19 pandemic is not over'. On the one hand it is, 'It's finished, move on, just let it rip, it will be fine, we've all got to get it someday', but it is also there as a convenient spectre that can be blamed for any cost-of-living issues or any problems with the economy.

It does peoples' heads in. It is very damaging to people's mental health to have governments who change their mind, who change the message, who one day talk about the seriousness of something and the next day they just do not care about the exact same set of issues. Things that were talked about as reasonable and important public health protections are now referred to by this Liberal Government here, and by the Liberals and the Labor Party in every other state, as restrictions.

Wearing a mask is not a restriction. Wearing a mask is a sensible protection. In Australia three new Omicron subvariants were detected this week, reported in the Guardian yesterday. In addition to the existing BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants, the Kirby Institute has detected a new BA.2.12.1, a new BA.4 and a new BA.5 subvariant in Australia.

We have had suppression strategies phased out and we do not know yet whether they are able to circumvent or evade the antibody responses, but it seems very likely that they can do that, that is the expectation. That means reinfections will happen, vaccines will be less effective, we are coming in to winter and we have to reset.

This Government has to reset and put money into the Budget and it has to reset fundamentally by accepting long COVID-19 risks and by supporting people to normalise the culture of wearing masks, normalise the culture of filtration and ventilation and putting the things in place to protect people as the winter comes.