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Its time to learn to live with the virus

By Rhys Jones - posted Monday, 12 October 2020

So what has been Australia’s approach to this virus that targets almost exclusively the very old and sick? We have shut our borders to international travellers, shut our internal borders as well, despite this being most likely unconstitutional. We have closed our schools where almost nobody is vulnerable to the disease. We have closed our pubs, restaurants and night clubs where healthy young people gather. We have cancelled our sporting events and closed our sports clubs. We have raided peoples homes who wish to protest about this response. We have prevented people having proper weddings and worse still proper funerals. We have destroyed entire industries and created an economic disaster not seen since the 1930’s. We have stopped shaking hands when we meet and at times view each other with suspicion or even fear.

This raises serious questions about the media who have done nothing but fear monger about this virus from the very beginning, reporting asymptomatic cases as though this was the Black Plague. Describing the deaths of 90 year old nursing home residents as “tragic”. The reality is that when a 90+ year old nursing home resident dies, that is simply the natural course that we will all take at the end of our lives. Sad for the loved ones but hardly tragic. Why is this style of reporting continuing? Are these journalists unable to read simple graphs? Have they lacked the curiosity to really look at who is dying? Is it that hyperventilating fear mongering sells newspapers and attracts viewers? Why are the rare and exceptional deaths of younger people broadcast so loudly with so little curiosity about their underlying state of health?

Why are our politicians still beating the drums of fear? Well they seem to be enjoying unprecedented popularity due to their actions. Maybe they simply feel unable to back track, having done so much damage already. How do they admit it was all for nothing? Perhaps they simply become hooked on the power they have been wielding.


So what is to be done?

Firstly we need to correct the public view of this virus as being deadly. It may well make you very sick, (just as the seasonal flu does) but unless you are in a highly vulnerable group, you are at almost zero risk of dying. Once the public know the truth, they will be less willing to accept the destructive restrictions our political overlords have imposed. This will eventually force either a change of approach or a change of government. In a democracy you cannot govern against the will of the people. Or at least not for very long.

Secondly, provided we protect the vulnerable population there is little chance of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed. The vulnerable are easy to identify. They are people who are both old and sick. Most of them live in nursing homes. Few of them have jobs to go to, so protecting them from exposure is relatively easy. It is certainly much more practical than trying to prevent the entire population catching this highly contagious virus.

One thing is for sure, you cannot keep coronavirus patients in nursing homes and not expect it to spread to the other residents. For those unfamiliar with nursing home care, this is the most intimate care that can be given. The carer assists the resident to get out of bed, dresses them, showers them, toilets them, brushes their teeth and hair, feeds them and then moves on to the next resident and repeats the process. Residents, many with dementia, wander about the home and into each others rooms. No amount of PPE can prevent spread of infection in such an environment.

As such, staff and residents need to be monitored constantly for any signs of coronavirus and immediately removed from the home if they test positive. This could be achieved through having an infection control nurse stationed in every home, taking temperatures of any person entering the facility and questioning them about potential exposure. Testing staff either daily or every second day and assessing every resident daily for signs of infection. Although this sounds expensive and intrusive, it is far less expensive and intrusive than the current system of trying to prevent the entire population from catching it.

Thirdly, we need to do proper cost benefit analysis on any policy approaches to this pandemic. We need to ensure value for money in any intervention we make. When the public truly understand the costs of lockdowns, they will be far less willing to accept them.


Fourthly, our journalists need to start doing their job. Reporting that a man in his thirties has died of coronavirus is not good enough. If the government is unwilling to tell them the full story about what other illnesses the person had, then they need to do some journalism and find out from the family or friends.

The information takes on a very different hue if it comes to light that the individual was actually in the end stage of cancer, or had just undergone a liver transplant. Additionally, the media needs to be encouraging debate about the true nature of the pandemic, and most importantly the policy response. This means printing contrary opinions from experts in a variety of fields, not just medical experts who lack any understanding of the wider ramifications of their suggested policies. The Australian newspaper has been excellent in this regard, with powerful, well researched articles both supporting current policy and opposing current policy. However, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Fifthly, we need to understand that there is nothing to suggest that dying of coronavirus is worse than say dying of influenza, or dying of a stroke. Except of course if you are consigned to die alone in an isolation ward in order to protect your children and grandchildren from catching a virus that is unlikely to harm them. We have always accepted the fact that people get old and die. For many people nearing the end of life, death can be a welcome release from the suffering of the world. Pneumonia was traditionally known as “the old man’s friend”. Coronavirus need not be viewed any differently.

This madness needs to end. It’s time to stop worrying and learn to live (and to die) with the virus.

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About the Author

Rhys Jones is a psychiatric nurse and is studying law at Murdoch University in Perth.

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

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