COVID-19 is serious, but COVIDmania could prove to be more deadly | Dana Pham

A watershed moment in the NSW Government’s response to COVID-19 occurred on Saturday, July 24th when, in spite of the prevailing lockdown, the “Worldwide Rally for Freedom” protest was held in the Sydney. Mainstream media (MSM) reported 3,500 attendees, but watching a Facebook livestream, this number of attendees appeared far higher than what they were attending. It was made clear to me that day that, whilst COVID-19 is serious, COVID mania could prove to be more deadly. 

My Facebook newsfeed the next day was profoundly disheartening. I tried not to emotionally react to the Sydney protests and instead read opinions from a variety of sources, including those that I disagreed with. Like many of you, I too commit the sin of staying in my echo chamber and, whilst this may feel comforting, I am mindful that I have to live in a society where there is diversity of opinion. Even if MSM doesn’t portray them, the Quiet Australians are alive and well, typically spending little time on social media.

Like many of my political views today, I have a nuanced view about yesterday’s event. I supported the Hong Kong protests back in 2019, but that’s easy to do when you’re safe in Australia. I didn’t support the #BLM protests in Australia and across the world mid-June last year, only because I didn’t agree with the politics of BLM. Regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic or not, freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition the government should be protected.  

My parents left Vietnam after the War ended in 1975 because those freedoms weren’t protected. They endured a number of traumatic, life-changing experience before finally getting on a boat to escape, with no guarantee of surviving the South China Sea. This is not a new refugee story; my point is that, out of respect for my parents’ life experiences, I cannot in good faith take the position that yesterday’s protesters shouldn’t have protested. Perhaps they should have socially distanced and worn more masks. Perhaps the protest organisers should’ve condemned the allegedly crazy fringe groups present and those looking to fight the police then and there – from what I can tell though, the protest leadership was decentralised. 

There are many angles to the event, not just the MSM one. Unsurprisingly, people are angry about how the lockdowns are hurting them and I am mindful that I’m doing much better than many people. Those hit by these lockdowns the hardest are the working poor who are now poorer than before. 

If you’re thinking about de-friending people on Facebook because you disagree with their views over yesterday’s event, you really need to reconsider. They may be hurting and alone, why not reach out via Messenger to them to see how they’re going? I have friends on Facebook from across the political spectrum and I have no intentions of de-friending people, this does not help anyone. A kindness pandemic is in order, and I think the MSM is deliberately dividing society with their angles of the story because it’s more profitable for them to do so. 

Whilst I didn’t attend the protest in Sydney, I know people who did as they have been hurt badly by the lockdowns. I’ve been asked to dob them in to police, but out of respect for my parents’ traumatic life experiences, I cannot do this. It’s against my conscience to do what I don’t think Australians should do to each other. There is a time and place for civil disobedience, and the time has come for me to, again, uphold and honour the values that I hold dearly to me, that makes me who I am today. 

Australians are being pitted against other Australians, I came across an underrated news article yesterday that reported that “NSW politicians increase their allowances to $26m amid pay freeze”. Are we truly in this together or not?” Gladys Berejiklian, along with her Health Minister and Chief Health Officer, has outdone Dan Andrews in showing a disingenuous regard (or should I say shameless disregard) for those struggling under lockdown measures.  Sydneysiders rightfully felt the need to protest in order to be heard. 

It’s obvious as to why exercising outdoors hasn’t been banned; to be consistent, why should outdoor protests be banned? Should we also ban fast food, alcohol and driving cars on the road as well as part of the prevent-all-deaths-at-all-costs approach? Food for thought from the Brits who have opened up despite recent high levels of Delta cases compared to Australia: Public Health England reported that despite a 31-week closure of pubs and restaurants, there was a 59% increase in people drinking at higher risk levels between March 2020 and March 2021. 

The policing of ‘bad things’ for the good of society should be proportionate –it seems that vocal parts of society are supportive or indifferent towards police brutality in response to the pandemic. Under the Peelian approach to policing, which originated in the English-speaking world, the public are the police and the police are the public. The police are representative of the community, not just the vocal minority of the community who may appear to be the majority (or worse, driving an apparent majority opinion via media). To do otherwise is to politicise the police. 

So what do we know about viruses in general? Viruses, by natural selection, tend to become less deadly over time and more easily transmissible, because the host is alive longer to spread the pathogen. England’s experience with Delta is proving this to be the case for COVID-19, where symptoms of Delta tend to be a little different to other variants, but not necessarily more severe. Considering the lockdowns this time are more harsh than previous ones Sydney has experienced, the response to Delta, which appears to be less deadly than Alpha, has been disproportionate. 

Unless of course, Gladys is signalling that the national lockdowns in 2020 were not harsh enough? If so, this is not consistent with her narrative up until June this year – I mean, she is a politician after all, who finally capitulated to emotional calls for lockdowns by those who would be least affected by such. And for what? 

You have probably heard before that “it’s just money”. When you pay someone money, it is usually because you are thankful for someone making your life better in some way, shape or form. When people are making a lot of money, it is usually because they are making a lot of lives better. Money is a human language that helps people help each other improve themselves. When lockdowns restrict this human language, it stops people from thanking each other for improving each other’s lot in life. Money drives human flourishing. Lockdowns are costing us more than “just money”, and unfortunately former Home and Away star Dieter Brummer is no longer around to tell us why. How many Dieters are there out there? 

Ironically, the public sector, big Pharma and big businesses like Coles and Woolies have been making a killing, whilst small business people and their employees are left to suffer. Money matters, especially if you want to pour more resources into expanding extant resources and capacity for responding to COVID-19. Shutting Sydney down shuts down our economy, and it is our economy, when not in lockdown, that is paying for our public hospitals. Money does not grow on trees, and there is only so much our governments can borrow. 

Even if every Sydneysider complied with the restrictions, lockdowns, including snap lockdowns, are less likely to work the more transmissible the variant is. Just ask Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia for whether they have better suggestions. It could work if you shut down Coles and Woolies, and it could work if household members locked each other up in their bedrooms, but that’s only if you are COVIDmaniac enough to not be able to recognise how deadly your mania is. The elimination strategy is failing more than flattening the 2020 curve. 

If the COVID-19 vaccines were nationally rolled out more successfully, perhaps the doomed strategy we see now may have been deemed a glimmer of hope. I doubt it, given that Australia, especially NSW, is now pursuing a dual vaccination-elimination strategy. A recent internal report from the CDC in the United States indicating that the Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and possibly spread by the vaccinated as easily as the unvaccinated. Putting aside the ethics of pressuring people to be vaccinated, if the elimination strategy is increasingly driven by a vaccination strategy, then this makes no sense. 

It is not too late for some Swedish lessons to help us get it right once and for all, so that we may learn to live with COVID-19 successfully. Given that about three-quarters of Australians aged 70 and over have received at least one jab, the only strategy that makes sense now is to end lockdowns, redirect resources to protecting the vulnerable and keep vaccination truly voluntary. People should be free to do their own risk-benefit analysis, including freedom to discern misinformation without social media condescending them. If the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisation and mortality rates (flattening the curve), why censor the alleged misinformation? And why pave the way for setting up a two-tier society, segregating those with vaccine passports from those who don’t? 

Ultimately, only ourselves, as responsible adults, can make choices about masks, vaccination and our daily living. Expecting government to make those choices for us comes with unintended consequences, which can be deadlier than COVID-19. As the vaccine does not stop people catching or transmitting the virus, but claims to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, the benefit of the experimental vaccines (if any) is to the individual, and not society as a whole.

Photo Credit.

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