Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we thought it was very important that the House be given an opportunity today to fully debate the state's level of preparedness for the pandemic after two years of being COVID 19 free. We heard from the Health minister just then a self-congratulatory claim that the Government has acted cautiously and responsibly. Tell that to the young people who were encouraged to go to the Party in the Apocalypse super-spreader event which led to a spike in COVID 19 positive cases among young people. Tell that to the parents of the 1703 Tasmanian children and young people who we were told last night are confirmed as having tested positive.
Tell that to the now nearly 50 000 Tasmanians who have been exposed to a potentially deadly and disabling virus with known long term consequences for many people who recover from the acute phase of the virus.
Tell that to the people who were abandoned to find their own rapid antigen tests, line up for hours only to be sent away.
Tell that to the people who for love nor money could not get a call back from COVID@home while this virus gripped them. In the words of one constituent who spoke to me in tears about her experience, it made her feel so much pain because she felt like her body was being ripped inside out. She did not hear from COVID@home for six full days. When she spoke to a COVID@home doctor, who tried to tell her her symptoms were mild, that doctor would not provide their last name.
We were not prepared for Omicron.
On the day the Premier lifted the border protections, zero per cent of Tasmanian children under 12 were vaccinated. Most Tasmanians over the age of 50 had been vaccinated with two doses of AstraZeneca, which we knew before the 15 December was ineffectual in preventing Omicron infection.
We now have raging COVID-19 transmission in our schools. We have a Government that decided to send children into classrooms who were unvaccinated with no masks.
We have a Government that gaslit the people of Tasmania by continually referring to Omicron as mild, against the advice of the World Health Organisation which was clear that this is dangerous language. Omicron may be less severe than Delta but Delta was twice as severe as the original wild Wuhan variant of this virus.
We have been criticised for raising our very deep concerns about this Government's approach. We have never in nearly four months since the border restrictions were lifted heard a single Government minister, or indeed the director of Public Health, acknowledge long COVID-19.
There are so many scientific papers now that confirm long COVID-19, which impacts somewhere between 10 to 30 per cent of people who recover from acute infection. We have papers that confirm SARS virus is found in tissues all over the body from recovered patients. We have papers that confirm immunological impacts. We have papers that confirm damage to the brain. We have now the experience of the United Kingdom and the United States which are some 18 months ahead of us on this pandemic that tells us the long-term health consequences for a significant proportion of people who are infected with COVID-19 can be profound.
This virus, contrary to what we hear from Tasmanian Public Health, is not just a respiratory virus, it is a multi-system virus. It is a vascular disease. It gets into our blood, it creates microclots. It has been found in all the organs of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 when autopsies are undertaken. It is found in the reproductive organs.
This Government failed to properly inform and educate Tasmanians about risk. It gaslit them by telling them this variant is mild.
We have had 25 people die with COVID-19 through this pandemic. Quite often we get told when there is another death that there were underlying conditions.
The state has the highest chronic disease burden in the country. Many Tasmanians, will have some form of underlying condition. It devalues their life, cuts short, when governments say, this person who passed away had an underlying condition. In Denmark and the United Kingdom there is a new variant which has led to all-time high mortality rates.