Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

COVID-19 Four Corners looks back – ignores urgent need for Quarantine accommodation

By Arthur Dent - posted Friday, 3 April 2020

I just watched the latest Four Corners. It did successfully highlight dangers that were obvious a full month ago and calls for actions that were needed earlier than that. But it rigidly avoided looking to the future and discussing the measures that are needed now and are still not being announced and prepared. Instead it repeated most of the actual video footage at least 3 times each. At one point I had to check whether I was watching a repeat loop of the video. They repeated exactly the same thing so many times to emphasize how little they had to contribute to actual thinking. But it is certainly worth watching to understand the state of public consciousness in Australia:

As far as I know the only places that may have got their initial outbreaks under temporary control are those that did move infected people to quarantine accommodation until 80% recovered from mild or moderate illness while not passing on infection and the other 20% or so became more severely ill and needed transfer to emergency hospitals. Since many cases are unreported with very mild or no symptoms they still initially lost control but recovered faster. These are Asian economies – China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea – with experience from SARS and MERS and very different social conditions to Anglosphere countries – Australia, NZ, Canada, US and the UK

By now other countries on the same trajectory to catastrophe as Italy and Spain should have at least announced an intention to follow the successful examples as rapidly as they can in order to avoid the looming catastrophe already occurring in some countries which did not. Instead Dr Birx, US coronavirus coordinator has announced that the US learned much from China's experience as well as the UK Imperial College models, but that this Chinese approach of quarantine accommodation for people infected is not being followed. Instead of home self-isolation is more appropriate to American social conditions. The US and UK, like Australia are of course now adopting other, even more urgent, emergency measures for "social distancing" etc.


The conditions are different. Those Asian societies all have more crowded accommodation in which self isolation in homes shared with others not yet known to be infected is less feasible and a culture in which people are more likely to comply quickly with intrusive government health directions.

But those are grounds for careful preparation and rollout, which requires early announcement and offering the option of separate accommodation first on a rationed basis for those most likely to need it (including in the package of measures to maintain contact with households, school children and people especially vulnerable, to support mental health and coping generally). There should be announcements now about how to apply for such accommodation and apologies that it may have to be initially limited.

An obvious consequence of the different culture in countries like Australia is that it is far better to have people clamouring to be accommodated in quarantine than threatening them with compulsory quarantine (even if the latter also becomes necessary later). Therefore early announcements of not having the facilities ready yet are all the more important.

That would set the scene for rapidly ramping up the logistics operation currently dealing with a couple of thousand people returning to Australia each day and moving them to the larger hotels. That stream will dry up fairly soon but the capacity to handle accommodation for 50,000 cases and to increase it at 2000 per day will have been established in about two weeks and should be able to provide an "officer and NCO corps" for a larger mobilization following immediately.

The new stream of much larger numbers of people infected for a couple of weeks may soon completely dwarf incoming travellers in both numbers and significance.

Since so many activities have been shutdown, there is a much larger workforce available and lots of space available to roll-out whatever is needed. But it does take time to ramp up. Instead of just telling people to stay home to "fight the war" they should be told how to "sign up". If a real mobilization will be ramped up over the next few weeks there should be announcements already and discussion about it even among people as detached from reality as ABC journalists.


On the positive side, at least Four Corners was not still twittering about such totally irrelevant issues as toilet paper panic buying and the relatively minor incompetence in managing supply chains for groceries and pharmaceuticals. The focus now is on the actual impending catastrophe rather than trivia that in any developed country will be quickly resolved and is unlikely to become a central cause of death even in poorer countries. Even if 10% of the population anywhere dies suddenly, essential services can and will be restored and maintained with any problems doing so being insignificant relative to the actual underlying catastrophe.

But Four Corners interviewed nobody about ANY measure that has not ALREADY been announced.

It was a "no-brainer" to point out that strict quarantine for 14 days should be enforced for anyone arriving from places with higher levels of community transmission and any contacts with people already infected. That has just been done. Most transmissions are still being seeded from international arrivals and tracking and isolation is still effective for more than half of all known cases. So it makes sense to do that before other things.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

This article was first published on C21st Left.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

36 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Arthur Dent (formerly Albert Langer) is a left-wing political activist and an occasional contributor to the C21st Left blog.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Arthur Dent

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 36 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy