Much about society has changed during the COVID 19 pandemic and most of us are a bit over it to say the least. Businesses have been impacted the most with new rules around hygiene and contact tracing. People’s habits have changed too in relation to use of hand sanitiser and proximity to others in public spaces.
So when the vaccine is rolled out from March 2021 say till June or July when contagious diseases normally flourish will there be a lasting benefit once herd immunity is achieved?
To take influenza as the example in 2019 there were 66,135 cases reported in Queensland and 298,320 cases reported in Australia and 812 deaths recorded from it in Australia that year. In 2020 there were 6,034 cases reported in Queensland and 21,266 cases reported in Australia and 37 deaths recorded in Australia last year. So this is roughly a 90% reduction in illness and more than 95% reduction in deaths in one year!
So given the government has set the spending benchmark of around $5M per life saved during COVID, how much is an influenza death prevention worth? It’s going to be hard for them to back away from this level of commitment going forward, so what things will they try to have us keep post pandemic to continue this good work?
Obviously we can’t shut society down for every disease that comes along but the public’s expectations have been raised on the health front. Going back to 800 deaths a year from influenza may no longer be accepted as just a fact of life we are used to and are fine with.
At $5M per life the new cost of preventing the spread of the flu in Australia per annum is $4 Billion per year. Not sure where that money would come from, but even if they spent a quarter of that each year we may prevent 200 deaths a year.
This is all fuzzy logic and unsustainable given the amount of other killer diseases that also make demands on the public purse, but perhaps the free or inexpensive things we are doing to stop disease could be kept.
For example, the crosses on the floor to show customers where to stand apart in queues could easily stay and caps per square metre in restaurants and bars could also be kept if they were financially viable. Hand sanitiser dispensers and signs could be kept, as well as signs requesting people not to enter premises if unwell. Telephone doctor appointments must surely be kept as well as work from home facilities for the unwell.
If we are to salvage any good at all from 2020 then these decisions should be discussed now and governments need to consult the community about these changes. COVID provided cover for governments to make captains calls without consultation or oversight as it was an emergency. Once this is past with the vaccine,A they need to consult the community and take us along for the ride rather than impose rules from on high. Parliament must also approve the new rules rather than one health official alone calling the shots. That’s not the Australian way long term.
By Staff Writer Mozza