Australian governments, state and federal, Labor and Liberal-National Coalition alike, have created a perfect storm for a major upswing in the pandemic. The lifting of the limited bans and most of the other restrictions has already resulted in re-infections, sustained daily deaths, and the spread of the highly infectious and potentially vaccine-resistant variant of Omicron.
The official answer is to double up. The remaining security measures will be lifted, the domestic borders fully reopened and super-spreader events promoted. The maxim is that the preparation of the corporate bonanza over the Christmas season and the broader effort to force the population to âlive with the virusâ in the interests of big business must not be impaired by anything.
This murderous âLet it ripâ program is completely non-partisan. It is worked out by the extra-constitutional âNational Cabinetâ made up of federal, state and territorial leaders, mainly the Labor Party. It is led by a de facto tripartite alliance composed of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian Labor Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and the Prime Minister of the New South Wales (NSW) Coalition, Dominic Perrottet.
When Omicron was first discovered late last month, everyone insisted that no security measures would be taken to prevent the variant from entering the country. As a consequence, it is now in circulation. There are already 45 Omicron infections in NSW, with clusters of transmission in the community linked to two schools in west Sydney and an indoor climbing facility.
Yesterday, Victorian authorities confirmed the state’s first two locally acquired Omicron infections, one in the western Melbourne parish of Brimbank and the other in the southeastern parish of Casey. There is no evidence of how the infected people caught the virus on opposite sides of the state capital, which means it is likely to be more widely transmitted.
Notification of the cases came less than a week after Prime Minister Andrews rejected a “zero omicron” strategy, saying his administration’s top priority was to keep state borders open for commercial reasons.
A case of Omicron has been detected in the community in the Australian capital territory, while there are quarantined infections in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
To justify their point, governments have made totally unsubstantiated claims that Omicron may be less lethal than other variants. Some officials even announced their wish for Omicron to spread, making the twisted argument that its mass transfer would oust Delta.
Pfizer’s announcement on Wednesday that two doses of its vaccine will not protect against Omicron infection underscores the criminality of this policy. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the foundation of the Australian vaccination program. The introduction of a booster vaccine, which Pfizer said could improve the effectiveness of the vaccine against Omicron, has only just begun. Just over 2 percent of the population got the third shot.
While Omicron is floating around, Delta is awakening again. This is especially true in NSW, where infections roughly doubled in a week. 208 infections were reported on Monday, a little more than 50 fewer than the previous day. On Tuesday it was 260, Wednesday 403, Thursday 420, Friday 516 and today 560.
The NSW infections are higher than in the last two months. The virus reproduced number of 1.32, the highest since August. Any number above 1 means the infections will increase. The positivity rate, which indicates the number of test results confirming infection, was 0.57 percent yesterday, its highest since October 11.
It’s been exactly two months since a limited lockdown was lifted in NSW, followed by the lifting of a number of other restrictions. The current surge is the direct result of these government policies, which are fully supported by the state Labor opposition.
A number of super-spreading events have been identified. This includes a night of quiz at the Oxford Hotel in inner-west Sydney, which resulted in 45 Delta infections. The event took place on November 30, but health officials didn’t warn publicly until more than a week later that it was a broadcast source. NSW Health has not published data on COVID exposure sites in Sydney for months.
A boat dance party on Sydney Harbor on December 3rd resulted in at least eight Omicron cases. Nightclubs and pubs in the city center, the eastern suburbs, and the west have also been linked to broadcasts.
NSW Health has warned people to be “careful”. But those attending large social gatherings are following government admonitions to “enjoy the summer” and treat the pandemic as a thing of the past. Prime Minister Perrottet responded to the Harbor Omicron cluster by calling for “Confidence, Hope and Optimism”.
Perrottet’s government is holding a British-style “Freedom Day” this Wednesday. In most environments, masks will no longer be required and all density restrictions for pubs, clubs and sporting events will be lifted. Unvaccinated people are no longer restricted, forcing the hospitality industry and other workers to interact in high-risk environments with people who are unprotected from transmitting the virus.
The QR check-in code system will be phased out for most venues. This practically means an end to contact tracing as the government is abandoning one of the last resort means of determining where and when the virus was transmitted. This is particularly important as the various pseudoscientific models used by the âNational Cabinetâ to justify reopening have all assumed an effective traceability and quarantine system.
In a rare exception to the generally uncritical media coverage of this criminal policy, the Guardian with warnings from World Health Organization advisor Professor Mary-Louise McLaws.
“It is definitely unwise to push the easing,” warned McLaws. âIt’s so much easier to tell Australians to keep wearing a mask and wait until we know more about Omicron and those who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask until we know more. It’s too clumsy to throw away these really successful infection prevention strategies. “
In Victoria, the daily new infections have decreased to around 1200. Thirteen deaths were confirmed yesterday, adding to daily tolls. The test times fizzle out. COVID hospital admissions had stabilized at around 300 but have not decreased since then. More than 60 people are in intensive care units, senior doctors warn of the heavy strain on the system.
Chronically underfunded public hospitals are operating at full capacity, even in states that have not yet had significant COVID recordings. the Australian reported today that there were 19 Code Yellow alarms in Queensland hospitals last month, suggesting demand has exceeded capacity. The Australian Medical Association warned the state will need an additional 1,500 hospital beds immediately.
Even so, the Queensland Labor government continues to open its state borders this week so that Delta and Omicron can enter effectively without healthcare support.
This is the national policy. The “National Cabinet” yesterday reaffirmed the commitment of all governments to lift the restrictions. It “noted the significant progress made in reopening Australia” and welcomed the lifting of national and international travel bans.
The meeting “received an update on the progress all states and territories have made in improving health system capacity planning … and potential crisis responses”. But no details were given. Australia started the pandemic with fewer hospital beds per capita than most other OECD countries, and the number of ICU beds has actually decreased over the past two years.
These governments have policies that they know will result in sharp increases in infections, hospital admissions, and deaths. The alternative to this policy, dictated by the profit demands of the corporate elite, is the struggle to mobilize the working class for a socialist program that puts public health, safety and the interests of society above those of a tiny wealthy oligarchy.