Less than a fortnight after Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young promised Queenslanders there would be no more citywide lockdowns, Greater Brisbane is back under lock and key. The three-day lockdown comes as COVID-19 resurfaces in the Sunshine State, much to the embarrassment of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, her Chief Health Officer and her health system. But this time things are different.
The leaders of the COVID response in Queensland have been exposed as completely devoid of trust. Young failed to keep her promise for barely a week and a half before reverting back to her authoritarian nature. At the time she made the promise on March 19, she cited apps being used widely for the purpose of checking in to various venues as a turning point, boosting the effectiveness of contact tracers who could work fast enough to prevent future citywide lockdowns. She stated, “There’s not need to go into lockdown when we’ve got responses like this.” Yet here we are again, the whole of the Greater Brisbane area locked down again just over two months after their last one.
This comes despite the fact that when Queensland last faced the prospect of an outbreak at the beginning of March after a doctor at Princess Alexandria Hospital returned a positive result to COVID-19, they only locked down the vulnerable: those in aged care, hospitals, and disability accommodation. So, the question must be asked, what has changed since then?
It seems apparent the answer lies in those in charge. Young is only a symptom of a much larger problem. The nation’s leaders, for the most part at the state level, are stumbling around clutching at power and doing all they can to protect their own jobs. The only leader who seems to have a semblance of sensibility is New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian. If the shoe were on the other foot and it was NSW facing an outbreak, Palaszczuk would almost undoubtedly have closed the border by now.
Meanwhile, with refusals to rule out an extension to the Greater Brisbane lockdown, the city faces the prospect of another Easter trapped inside their own homes. Businesses in the area could face significant losses, with NSW residents told to delay travel plans to Queensland. While the public sector remains for the most part untouched by the implications of these measures, the private sector is bleeding dry. It seems however that public servants could not care less.
After the first case in the new outbreak in Queensland was made known, Queensland Health told the public that the man who had tested positive had hosted a house party with twenty-five attendees, who had all been placed under isolation. Yet the next day, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’ath announced that this was not the case and that the only people the man had come into contact with were his four housemates. Even she was stumped as to how Queensland Health had managed to get it so wrong.
So, what happened? Why did those who were supposedly working far more effectively report something that was so far from the truth? There are several theories. The first is that they were overegging the omelette to invoke fear in the people of Queensland. That would hardly be surprising given this is what those in positions of power have done time and time again over the last year. The second is that they were attempting to cover for themselves and errors they had made by pinning the blame on a Queensland citizen. Again, this is not reaching, given those in power will do anything to save their own jobs and try to stave off the idea that they are grossly incompetent. Or, quite possibly, they may have just to take the time to consider what had occurred and lead to errots in their assessment. This would, however, also suggest incompetency.
Whatever the reason for this outbreak, there is no doubt it is the result of mismanagement by those leading the response to COVID-19. To go to a lockdown like this suggests those in charge in Queensland have little to no faith in their contact tracing and health systems. That does not inspire confidence and should rightly concern those residing in the state. Palaszczuk is walking the path of Daniel Andrews, who began to lose the confidence of his own rusted-on supporters upon the imposition of his last lockdown. The people of Queensland may have re-elected Palaszczuk for a four-year term, but that does not render her immune to severe criticism and loss of support now. It also does not help her Federal counterparts in their quest to be elected to power.
With Easter now hanging in the balance the Queensland Government must clearly demonstrate they can be trusted to stick to their word. If they cannot, the people of Queensland will surely be irate, any semblance of trust they had left for politicians eroding, a reckoning on its way.
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