In the fortnight or so since coronavirus began making serious news headlines in Australia, the Morrison government has consistently been behind the curve in terms of its response, until this weekend.
When confronted with the potential spread of the virus, some other nations reacted with extreme caution and enacted the strongest possible response. In Britain, part of Heathrow Airport was cordoned off for flights arriving from infected cities in China, where passengers could be extensively screened and examined by health officials before they could proceed into Britain.
In Italy some passengers weren’t even allowed disembark their aircraft before health officials could come on board in full protective gear to screen passengers for the virus.
When presented with this challenge the Morrison government chose not to screen or quarantine passengers, instead deciding that the best possible response was a pamphlet with information for arriving passengers with a number to call in case they experienced coronavirus symptoms.
Unsurprisingly, this weak and poorly conceived response was nearly universally criticized by both the media and the general public as an ineffective measure that would do nothing to keep Australian’s safe from the spread of the virus.
Just five days ago Education Minister Dan Tehan slammed schools and state authorities for advising pupils who had visited China recently to stay home for 14 days after, as a precautionary measure to stop the potential spread of the virus.
Tehan had a very clear message for foreign students, that Australia’s schools and universities were open for business, despite the advice from other education authorities to the contrary.
Yet less than a week later all Australian’s returning from China are now being asked to isolate themselves at home for 14 days, in order to protect the community from the possible spread of the coronavirus.
Some commentators including Sky News host and Tony Abbott’s former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin raised concerns that the government was potentially too driven by the revenue derived from Chinese visitors.
Credlin said on her show on Friday: “I hope we are not motivated by the dollar and nothing else here”.
Credlin wasn’t alone in her misgivings about the Morrison government’s handling of the virus crisis, with Alan Jones and fellow radio host Jane Marwick both voicing serious concerns of their own and advising greater precautions be taken.
But today, after days of criticism by the media and likely more than few phone calls from concerned members the Coalition party room, the Morrison government finally got ahead of the curve and closed Australia’s borders to travellers coming from China. With Australian citizens, residents and their spouses/dependents immune from the ban and allowed to enter the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have once again been dragged into action by a frustrated party room and media in much the same way he was forced of a Hawaiian beach before Christmas.
But regardless of the reasons that drove him to close our borders to travellers from China Morrison is making the right call, for both for the safety of the Australian public and to potentially ensure the electorate has a greater degree of confidence in his leadership during this ongoing crisis.
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