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Byron Shire
January 20, 2022

Be concerned, be very concerned…

Latest News

First Byron Shire Council meeting postponed

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Polio patients in a medical ward. Photo WHO Library

I popped by the supermarket on Wednesday to pick up a few groceries on the way home from the local doctors’ surgery where I’d just been given my booster shot for the wretched SARS-CoV-2 virus; a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

No problem.

All over in a moment.

My first two were AstraZeneca (AZ) without any complication, which reflects a long history of vaccination without a problem, since childhood. These were for protection against a whole range of diseases, from smallpox to polio, and in more recent years shingles and influenza.

In the supermarket I was struck by the fact I was the only one wearing a mask. No QR code at the door. No masks on staff.

No-one interested in social distancing anymore.

The red dots on the floor at the checkout for customer spacing were being ignored. All those rules and behaviours drilled into us over the past couple of years through government advertising about being ‘COVID Safe’ no longer had currency on this, the first day of COVID rule relaxation.

In the space of a day

I felt uncomfortable. Little wonder. How can you go from well-developed protective habits to none at all, in the space of a day, and not feel a little uncomfortable? Particularly when news bulletins are telling us that a new version of the virus, the Omicron strain, is here?

Boris Johnson is telling Brits there will be 100,000 new cases a day in the UK, and the NSW State government is telling us we may have as many as 25,000 thousand new cases a day in the new year. Whatever happened to the precautionary principle – and just plain common sense?

For me, the discomfort was not just about the sudden shift in government requirements putting people at risk when we had been so careful for so long to keep the virus in check. Earlier experiences had primed me about the dreadful consequences of so many diseases we had subsequently controlled and eradicated. Through good public health policy rolled out by government over many years, along with phenomenal advances in medical science that protected human life, these treatments all taken for granted now.

Before cures

I recall an early childhood visit to my father in Sydney Hospital. He’d just had surgery. Many of the other patients on the ward were in Iron Lungs. They had polio and couldn’t breathe. There was no inoculation against polio in those days. One patient just lay there looking at a glass box above him with an open book whose pages he couldn’t turn until someone turned the page for him. No podcasts then. No TV. No miniaturised radios.

I remember Cassie L, the beautiful, pale young woman next door who succumbed to TB at 21. No treatments for her. I wasn’t allowed to visit her much younger brother because of the risk of catching the disease. The chocolates given to us by her family were thrown out because of perceived transmission risk, even though chocolates in those days were a luxury. And I recall the man in intensive care at the local hospital with tetanus and his struggle to survive. He was a farmer who had not had an injection for protection against ‘Lock Jaw’.

Ignoring health advice

The sudden shift in public health management by the NSW government is made worse by the fact that the new premier seems to be ignoring the advice offered by the very serious and well-informed Dr Kerry Chant, the State’s Principal Health Officer, a steady, consistent hand at the health helm whom ‘Our Glad’ relied on for good advice.

Our new premier is an economics guy, infected by the marketplace bug, who seems to have little grasp of the health impacts of the SARS virus and surprisingly, no understanding of the long-term economic and health consequences of his government’s ‘let it rip’ philosophy for COVID management. For that matter, I sometimes question his economic comprehension and credentials as a money manager given the $4.6 billion ‘black hole’ from when he was in charge of iCare.

If he is such a good money manager – how did that happen? Is that what’s happening to management of the COVID-19 epidemic?

Lack of concern

The premier’s lack of concern showed itself early on when NSW Health stopped informing us, in the middle of November, about ‘venues of concern’, or ‘case locations’ on the NSW Government and NSW Health websites (https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/stay-safe/case-locations/exposure-sites ). They told us ‘This is due to a number of reasons, including high vaccination rates in the community’. Sadly, no explanation was given for the ‘number of reasons’ and I am still left wondering what they are. Perhaps none were given because putting economic considerations ahead of human health may not be politically palatable.

But perhaps the largest surprise in all of this is that we are hearing nothing about ‘Long Haul COVID’, a nasty legacy effect of having COVID-19 which seems to afflict around ten per cent of the population who get the disease and which may last a lifetime. What are the economic consequences of this legacy Mr Premier?


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Northern NSW Local Health District COVID update for January 14

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The PM’s report from the National Cabinet meeting yesterday

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What do you do next if you test positive to COVID?

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Govt offer pandemic payments 

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Frontline health workers supported

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Deep sigh. For the sheer insanity and sadness of it all, do watch the movie ‘Don’t Look Up’ . Apparently South Korean audiences think like me – they love it. After a lifetime of science plus ‘soft’ sci-fi, I found the film so apt: a global effort to break up a comet about to destroy earth is put off by a business venture to mine the comet instead for rare minerals. Can private enterprise save the planet? And if the film leaves you, like me, in tears more than in laughter, then try reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Ministry of the Future. ‘ Happy New Year

  2. You are right in many respects Richard, but, and there is a but.
    Omicron is now the Covid of growth and we are dealing with a different animal.
    All of the data to dates shows a very contagious virus (about 70X Delta), but with a much lower severity than Delta (some say 5x less), particularly for those people who are doubly vaccinated, not so good for those not vaccinated.
    We can’t be locked down forever and the only reason for maintain strict conditions at the moment is to moderate the hospital from influx of sick anti vaxxers. The Omicron virus gives the client an upper respiratory infection similar to the common cold and influenza, where Delta grew rapidly in the lungs causing serious illness and death.
    You may well remember measles, chickenpox and mumps parties in the ’60/70’s the sole purpose of which was to spread the viruses when the kids were young and gain immunity at a young age.
    My thoughts are that the game has changed and we will all get the Omicron variety eventually and get a better level of immunity than vaccines. Those that are vaccinated should not suffer serious unless one has underlying morbidity and complications. Those that have not taken any precautions have more to be concerned. But that was their choices and they must bear the consequences. Unfortunately they may well take over hospital beds as a priority and other very sick people without Covid will be punished.

    • The omicron variant has only very recently been identified and monitored for all those implications. Despite some things looking positive very few in the front line are calling the shots just yet. And rather than an afterthought the likelihood that: “Unfortunately they may well take over hospital beds as a priority and other very sick people without Covid will be punished” is a major issue when determining a public health response. The fear is that surges in the numbers of infected more than counteract any decrease in virulence.

      There were 557 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals on Tuesday 28 Dec, including 60 in intensive care, compared to 168 in hospital a fortnight ago and 21 in intensive care. This is over a time span when the percentage of Omicron cases is likely increasing.

      It’s not like we are being asked to stay “locked down”. What had many totally mystified was why our Premier was insisting on taking away highly effective but low impact measures like indoor masks and check-ins just when numbers were surging. Rather this being a new liberation, for many, just like Richard, it felt safer once again to stay home – and that wasn’t good for business!

  3. Well said, Mr Gates. My concerns exactly. Profits before public health seems to be government policy right now. I only wish we would take this opportunity to question the whole profit model and the unfettered growth economy. Now is the perfect time to be discussing a more prudent approach to Omicron, as well as a more sustainable economic model that doesn’t require endless consumer churn to make the system work.

  4. Agree with all except Our Glad did in fact ignore Dr Chant’s advice at the beginning and chose to accept the PM’s direction not to lockdown when Delta arrived!

  5. Yes. I have been concerned about Perrotet’s lack of leadership since he took over. No more briefings, no more quarantine no more…. I accept the message of personal responsibility but in a crisis, leadership is still needed. At the moment he has shown none. I am personally responsible but I still want strong leadership from those that are in key position positions in our State and Federal government. It appears to me Dr Kerry Chant has been completely sidelined – health v economics – Perrortet definitely chooses economics

  6. My only concern is how brain washed you have obviously been to now feel uncomfortable with normality almost like someone who’s been institutionalized.
    Grow up and stop pushing your fear onto other please we’ve all had enough of the BS already. It’s people like you who make me sick. Go play in the mud or something and stop acting you have OCD/paranoia.

      • Chris. Will you change your mind after your 8th shot no longer works and you need a 9th?

        When will you feel safe, when the next variant is 10 x less severe or 20 times less?

        You and everyone everybody else appear to forget that for the vast majority (jabbed or otherwise), the virus does not equate to a last breath.

        The facts and data does not justify the fear of getting back to some type of normal by the majority commenting here.
        Ebola it ain’t, yes a virus that kills some unfortunately, but that is a fact of life (more deaths in 2019 from flu). The constant, irresponsible fear mongering by media has caused many to jump at shadows.

        Difficult as it may be, it’s time to pull your big pants on and press on.

        • Things feel pretty normal to me, Steve. I don’t find indoor masks and check-ins a huge imposition on my normal. Apart from that the only thing I’m doing is staying out of Byron Bay as much as possible as the weekly nsw report ending 11 Dec showed Byron Shire at the head of the league table in cases per 100,000 of population with 194. The next in line was Waverley Council with 131 per 100,000. I’d love to have more up-to-date figures but I can’t find any on the health website. Overwhelmed!

          You see, I’d like to do what I can to avoid getting this virus, as well as avoid ending up further exhausting our health workers or taking up a bed someone else might badly need in IC.

          It’s intriguing how blasé you can be about all the known long-term unknowns with this virus (and this variant) – long Covid, organ damage, psychiatric implications – yet so insistent on the “long-term data” for the vaccines. I don’t blame you for wanting the latter but the attitude suggests a bit of inconsistency to me.

          Btw, I don’t doubt there were more deaths from influenza than Covid 19 in 2019 if that’s what you meant (probably not). But surely you’re not still trying to push this old furphy of the comparative death rates of the two! Apart from the lack of LONG-TERM DATA on the two illnesses coexisting in similar, controlled conditions (eg no lockdowns TTI, vaccination rates etc) the ABS website has a pretty compelling story. Check it out.

          • Hi Liz. Long Covid is serious, but the Covid Deniers don’t want to know about it. catching Covid is not a catching a ‘little flu’. In the UK some 1million of their citizens have identified as suffering from ‘Long Covid’. And if anyone cares to listen to a testimonial from a Long Covid sufferer then this blase attitude to catching Covid would quickly vanish.

  7. Must read article Richard. The shame is the ones who should read it will see it as a myth and rubbish it as vaccinations are poisoning their bodies, not the diseases.

    • They might not work as well as the polio vaccine did – after years of development – but they work as well as any defence we have. It’s a new and quickly mutating virus.

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