Government must be prepared to pivot if COVID freedoms drive cases too high
THE eased COVID rules that began in NSW yesterday offer respite to a population whose freedoms and livelihoods have been diminished by months of restrictions imposed to keep coronavirus case numbers at manageable levels.
Vaccination has bluntened the impact of the virus, but eradication looks remote at best.
This means having to "live with COVID".
This is likely to mean less emphasis on COVID as "a crisis", and more on it being an unfortunate illness that society must accept as the price of keeping the wheels turning in the 2020s.
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Such a narrative has been increasingly prevalent recently, as governments everywhere try to adapt to the circumstances in front of them.
The new premier, Dominic Perrottet, came to the job with a reputation for wanting to bring NSW out of lockdown more quickly than his predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian, would allow.
His view, in so many words, has been that NSW cannot remain locked down forever.
He has also formed a unity ticket with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on reopening international borders as soon as possible.
While such "bold" leadership has its place, it's important that this reset of policy does not put philosophy ahead of reality.
Whatever happens from here, case numbers will rise, and perhaps dramatically so.
Every nation hit hard by COVID has seen its hospital system overrun.
A vaccination rate of 80 per cent would still leave one in five people completely unprotected.
Health advice would presumably warn against throwing caution to the wind, so if Mr Perrottet is as determined as he seems in taking the bull by the horns, he must accept that closer physical interaction carries unavoidable risks.
We can hope for the best but we must plan for the worst.
In Mr Perrottet's case, that planning must include accepting the potential for future lockdowns, against his insistence they are now a thing of the past.
COVID has already dominated world affairs for almost two years. Another shutdown would not be the end of our world.
Our limited exposure, so far, means we have little experience of the virus at its worst.
If Mr Perrottet is going to make haste he would be advised to do so slowly.
If he remains determined to crash past the virus, he should remember that even armoured tanks have steering wheels.