Throughout this entire COVID pandemic, and though inconsistent, the crux of messaging from Government across Australia has revolved around a common theme: “Don’t do the wrong thing.”
To those in charge, “doing the wrong thing” means to ignore public health orders – either wilfully or ignorantly – for selfish personal reasons. Visit family and friends. Mingle in groups. Travel from affected LGAs to regional areas. And so on and so forth.
And while there’s almost certainly a small element of that occurring, to a massive sector of people, “doing the wrong thing” means not turning up to work, potentially losing their jobs, and facing the crippling prospect of a loss of income.
Some of the most vulnerable people in this pandemic are not the elderly, the ill, or the immunocompromised. They’re ordinary folks in unstable employment. The casualised workforce.
All-too-frequently we have seen ordinary workers unwittingly thrust into the centre of public storms; made frontpage pariahs for their apparent wilful spreading of the coronavirus, only to later be cleared of any wrongdoing. The movers from Sydney who “brought” the Delta strain to Victoria were harangued as interloping demons, only to be almost completely cleared of wrongdoing because they weren’t “doing the wrong thing.”
The limo driver who, through no fault of his own, provided the human bridge for Delta to jump containment lines in Sydney had his conduct labelled as potentially “inexcusable” by no less an authority than the NSW Health Minister. He too was later cleared of wrongdoing, because he was not – by letter of the law at the time – “doing the wrong thing.”
One of the starker realities of the situation in NSW at the moment is that the state is, for reasons unknown, still unwilling to provide emergency financial aid to people who are awaiting COVID test results. Financial assistance is available – through a Commonwealth-funded disaster payment – to those who have lost work as a result of a protracted lockdown, and a Federally-funded Pandemic Leave Payment does exist, but it doesn’t account for people who have no immediately apparent link to previously confirmed cases.
That glaring oversight is reflected in NSW’s daily numbers. Of today’s 345 confirmed new cases, the source of 217 remains under investigation. That’s just short of 63% without directly obvious links, all of whom likely would not have qualified for the Federal Pandemic Leave Payment while awaiting their test results.
Further still, the number of cases that were fully isolating throughout their infectious period was just 116. A little over a third of today’s cases. The rest were in the community for either part, or all, of their infectious periods.
NSW recorded 345 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
Of these locally acquired cases, 128 are linked to a known case or cluster – 101 household contacts & 27 close contacts – & the source of infection for 217 cases is under investigation. pic.twitter.com/aphtK5nZfO
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) August 12, 2021
That’s an observable trend, too. Of yesterday’s 344 cases, 229 were unlinked at the time of announcement. 201 were not in isolation the entire time.
On Tuesday, it was 209 unlinked and around 254 not in full isolation out of 356 total new cases.
It may cause physical pain for a Liberal NSW Government to adopt anything a Victorian Government has done first, much less a Labor Government at that. But it is beyond ridiculous that the state hasn’t adopted a similar scheme to Victoria’s COVID test payment program that makes stipends of $450 available to people who have to miss work while awaiting test results. And that payment applies even if the result is negative.
Though the sample data pools are much smaller, the results remain fairly clear: On August 7th, just five days ago, Victoria recorded 29 new cases of COVID-19, with none in isolation during their infectious period. Today, though the number of locally-acquired cases sits at 21, the number of those cases that were fully isolating sits at 15. 71.4%. A massive increase in a very short space of time.
Sydney, and NSW, seems now resigned to chasing COVID vaccination targets across the broader community before letting it rip as an endemic ailment – a move that will likely see the state act as a grim, and isolated, pace-setter.
But until such a target is achieved, it’s the vulnerable that will suffer the most. And they will suffer not because they are “doing the wrong thing,” but because even the right thing leaves them no alternative.