Poor leadership, irresponsible media and a clever virus

Jul 21, 2021

Despite this being the most scientific of all ages, capable of producing highly effective vaccines a year after the SARS-COV-2 virus was identified ( Russian scientists actually achieved this in six months), poor leadership, ignorance, stubbornness and irresponsible media, (broadcast and social), are making this pandemic much worse than it needs to be.

The second Annual General Meeting of the International Society for the promotion of Corona Viruses was held last week. I watched the proceedings on V-Tube and I can tell you there was some pretty scary stuff going down. The meeting was held in Florida, a sensible decision since so many members were in that state already. There were millions present, some resting on walls and furniture while large numbers relaxed as they floated effortlessly through the air of the congress auditorium. The mood was clearly celebratory.

Their president, one Sars Delta, congratulated members on the news from the WHO that at this time they had successfully infected more humans than ever before. At the session I watched, ‘Friends of Corona viruses’ awards were announced. The chairman noted that last year it was obvious that Donald Trump deserved the associations highest honour but for 2021 there were many more worthy candidates.

Finally, however, the awards committee had decided that this year Boris Johnson deserved the highest accolade. After all, he was committed to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. “ With 46% of the population vaccinated and our best efforts only being rewarded with 50,000 new infections a day, Boris came to our rescue and declared that all those restrictions that were hampering our mission were to be removed in the name of “Freedom” noted the chairman. The applause was deafening.

They went on to a group award for US Republican governors and an honourable mention for the President of Brazil. They were seriously considering an award for NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklean when she stumbled and got more serious about a NSW “Lockdown”. Encouraging however was the chaotic failure in Australia for an efficient vaccination program with a number of that country’s leading politicians in line for next years awards.

The most chilling moment of the conference however came with the announcement that so many human infections were occurring and allowing enterprising delta viruses to pursue their commitment to continuous improvement that the arrival of the new more deadly Epsilon variant was imminent.

Enough of the satire.

The truth is that despite this being the most scientific of all ages, capable of producing highly effective vaccines a year after the SARS-COV-2 virus was identified ( Russian scientists actually achieved this in six months), poor leadership, ignorance, stubbornness and irresponsible media, (broadcast and social), are making this pandemic much worse than it needs to be.

Professor Stephen Leeder brought to my attention a distressing account of the generation of a sense of hopelessness among front line health care workers in the UK,  generated by failed public health initiatives with many patients dying from Covid-19 complications convinced that they were right to be afraid of and reject vaccination.

There is no shortage of dangerous behaviour by individuals here that have increased the risk of an explosion of Coronavirus infections in our communities. Two furniture removalists who knew they were infected and infectious disobeyed orders to self-isolate and indeed exposed many to the viruses they had contracted. As our ‘lockdown’ in NSW proceeds, police are charging more than 150 people a day for blatant breaches of the current public health orders and it is surely a fact that many more, not caught, are doing the same thing. There are few situations where the actions of one individual can potentially cause so much damage to many others. This is one of them.

Then there is the literally disgusting behaviour of one UK visitor, Katie Hopkins. She was invited to Australia by Chanel 7 to appear in their ‘Big Brother’ program. In an anything but funny outburst to her Instagram followers, she reported that she was trying to taunt the guards in her quarantine hotel by answering her door naked and without a mask.

“The police officer who checked me in told me when they knock on my door I have to wait 30 seconds ’til I can open the door to collect food” she laughed in an Instagram live video’. “Then I can open the door but only if I wear a face mask.”

What I want is the sergeant in the foyer to come up and tell me off so that I can stand there naked while he tells me off.”

The deserved condemnation followed but many, understandably, asked how this woman and indeed a number of ‘celebrities’ can come here at this time when 30,000 Australians are trapped abroad and desperate to return? These Australians have every right to be angered by the Federal government’s failure to long ago realise that they need an urgent build of  ‘fit-for-purpose’ quarantine facilities to help bring Australians home and prepare for future pandemics.

With the exception of the ABC which I think has done an excellent job of accurately reporting on the range of Covid issues of which the public should be aware, our Broadcast media (TV and Radio) have not been as accurate and constructive in their reporting as we had every right to expect.

SKY News has given much air time to fallacious views without providing expert opinions to counter dangerously inaccurate claims. In general, media reporting on the rare side effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine have been unduly alarmist and this has no doubt contributed to many rejecting the vaccine even when the risk associated with circulating virus far outweighed any risk from the vaccine.

In the United States, where the vaccination rate has stalled with less than 50% of Americans fully vaccinated, President Biden has vented his frustration with Facebook for allowing a huge amount of dangerous misinformation about the dangers of Covid vaccines to be propagated. A ‘free speech’ debate is raging but as I have reported hereinbefore, social media platforms are making a lot of money by allowing alarmist inaccurate information about the pandemic to raise doubts and fuel conspiracy theories, a very real 21st-century problem.

Here at home, it’s surely reprehensible that the Commonwealth government has paid scant attention to using popular media to educate Australians about the risks and benefits of coronavirus vaccines. A series of short cartoons about public health measures that protect one during this epidemic were childish and ineffective. A scare campaign featuring a woman struggling to breathe but denied a ventilator has been rightly criticised.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is now being made available to everyone. All receiving this vaccine must give informed consent for the jab and that means having a detailed knowledge of the symptoms to look out for in those very rare cases where vaccine-induced clotting might be occurring. Recipients need a plan of action for seeking immediate testing and help for early diagnosis and treatment is the key to avoiding serious consequences.

When receiving the vaccine from a GP  time is made for education before consenting. I worry about a lack of information being provided at mass immunisation clinics and pharmacies. It’s not good enough for the Commonwealth to have dot point information available on a website. Provision of the detailed information required should be imaginatively provided on all popular media by our government.

We have a long way to go before we again live in a Covid safe environment. Mistakes made to date need to be recognised and corrected. Going forward, consistency, transparency and accuracy must be features of information and strategies provided as part of a national plan to control our epidemic. This would feature the agreed national plan being implemented by states to avoid the current situation where different states take a different approach to the challenges we face from a very dangerous virus.

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