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Public policy and administration: lessons from the pandemic

By Murray Hunter - posted Wednesday, 9 November 2022

It's time for public policy and administrative bodies around the world to reflect and learn from what was done, and not done during the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020-2022. Emerging studies and research into policies pursued during the pandemic have created many questions about how the pandemic was handled by authorities around the world.

If government and society learnt nothing from how policy was formulated and implemented, we will be doomed for a repeat of what happened. Assessing the consequences of public policy and implementation are required, in order to improve the standards of public policy and administration for the future. Failure to do so would be lapsing in responsibility to the citizenry respective public administrations serve.

Government policy and administration processes must rely on feedback for government agencies and health authorities to improve from mistakes made.


Below is a list of issues that require review before another pandemic arises sometime in the future.

  • The adequacy and readiness of hospitals and health facilities requires immediate review. There needs to be an assessment of the availability of infectious disease facilities for communities. Governments banded justification for lockdowns on inadequate healthcare systems. Public health capabilities must be audited and assessed in readiness for any future pandemics.
  • Government policy measures must include debate and opinions from outside the public service. This is necessary with extremely complex and technical issues, where members within the service themselves have little experience and direct expertise. There was much dissent with certain decisions regarding restrictions, lockdowns, and mandates. Academic institutions and medical associations were quiet during this time. The lack of their views went against making good public policy.
  • Consequently, there should be free and open public debate on public policy, particularly as it affects communities directly. Government, along side the mainstream media, and social media appeared to stifle and even censor debate during the pandemic, leading to a sense of mistrust between citizens and government.
  • The 'science' is not a static piece of knowledge, particularly when Covid-19 was portrayed as a novel virus, with little known about it during late 2019 and 2020. Health authorities through policy making showed a number of times their decision making lagged behind the latest knowledge available. This was not good enough when so many people were affected by decisions made.
  • Governments were too hasty in declaring emergency decrees, closing down parliaments, and temporarily suspending the normal rule of law for something not far away from martial law. Some locations around the world have not yet eased these suspensions of law. Such moves have long term damaging effects for the practice of democracy.
  • Restrictions and mandates should be supported clearly by research and evidence-based knowledge, rather than ad hoc responses. The collateral damage from many of these restrictions in terms of deaths, health, bankruptcies, unemployment, and poverty were very high in relation to the deaths the restrictions were intended to prevent.
  • Sanctioning the use of drugs and vaccines on limited evidence, bypassing the traditional drug trial and approval process that takes a number of years, have health, safety, and efficacy issues we are only just starting to understand, after a year of data is available for study. Drug authorities must adhere to traditional processes of drug approval for health and safety reasons.
  • Drug and health authorities must be run by totally impartial people. The practice to these authorities being funded by the pharmaceutical industry must be reviewed.
  • Mandating vaccines is leading to enormous litigation worldwide. Government as under-writer for product liability is becoming a massive burden on government. Australian federal budget papersindicate AUD 77 million is expected to be paid out to the vaccine injured over the next 12 months. According to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, there were 136,523 adverse effects reports made, as at the end of October 2022.
  • Vaccine manufacturers should have not been made exempt from the above claims. There must be more scrutiny in the public's contracts made with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Vaccine passports did nothing to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 to third parties. These mandates had no medical purpose, were unjust and created a division between citizens.
  • Likewise firing people who didn't take the vaccines from jobs was totally unjust and discriminatory.
  • The government pursued a one-dimensional Covid-19 policy, utilizing vaccines as the prime weapon to develop what was termed as 'herd immunity'. It was clearly evident the vaccine failed at this. There should have been a much more balanced strategy based upon assisting people build up their own immune systems through education, and treatments for Covid-19, as the vaccines did not prevent infections.
  • The principle of patient-centred therapy was abandoned in favour of one treatment fits all. The prerogative of doctors to treat their patients within their own discretion was taken away with Covid-19.
  • The government used fearmongering and pessimistic talk which brought a sense of fear to the community. There was no advice on improving personal health and immunity, through exercise, diet, weight-loss, and supplements.
  • Very little research was actually undertaken on the origin, the intermediate transmission mammal, that humans actually were originally infected by, and the actual geographical location of the first outbreak. There is evidence the original outbreak may not have been China. Little is understood about the evolution of Covid-19. The Omicron variant appears to have evolved separately to the original and Delta strains. Scientists actually know very little about the evolution and spread of Covid-19, invaluable information for any future pandemic.
  • Finally, elected politicians must take responsibility. Public servants are advisors, administrators and the implementors of government policy.

We see that nothing has been learnt about the last three years. Today there is a pandemic of completely unknown nature, that being, excess deaths across the world, taking more lives than Covid did. Governments that were only so eager to impose lockdowns and mandates for Covid-19, should be urgently examining why so many are losing their lives in this dramatic rise in national excess death rates.

There must urgently be independent and/or Royal Commissions on what went right and what went wrong during the Covid-19 pandemic. These inquiries must have wide terms of reference, and be held in public.

Anything less than a full inquiry would be the biggest failure of the pandemic.


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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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