Scott Morrison has given an offical COVID-19 update after an emergency national cabinet meeting of all the state and territory leaders, and as you might expect, it was essentially a whole load of nothing.
With much of the country dealing with record-breaking daily case numbers just before Christmas while state governments simultaneously reduce restrictions, I (and most other Australians) have a couple of questions.
Big ones include: Will we be able to get booster shots early? Can I access an RAT for free (or at all)? What exactly is a casual contact? Why does the government keep going on about “personal responsibility” when this is a public health crisis?
Morrison was expected to have answers to at least some of these questions after the leaders discussed them all at the meeting but alas, he didn’t.
Instead, he used to his new favourite, stupid metaphor – comparing COVID-19 safety measures, like masks, to sunscreen.
In the national cabinet meeting, Scotty named some areas areas where the state and territory leaders have “agreed to move forward”.
The first one was masks. Shockingly, despite admitting that mask wearing is “strongly recommended” Morrison huffed and puffed about ‘personal responsibility’ instead of calling for a mask mandate.
“Mask-wearing in indoor spaces in public areas is of course highly recommended, whether it’s mandated or not,” he said.
Then, he compared it to wearing sunscreen in the summer, a comparison he made earlier on The Today Show.
Prepare yourself for the inevitable poorly thought-out taxpayer-funded ad campaign featuring cheery people applying sunscreen over their booster-shotted arms. Ad agencies, I’m available for commission.
“People will be slapping on their … sunscreen. There’s no rule or requirement to do that. But it is strongly recommended health advice. It’s in the same category.”
“And so Australians have common sense and they know what they need to do to protect their own health.”
I dunno Scott, given the plague of wrinkly white people my eyes are forced to endure every summer, I’m not sure that analogy quite cuts the mustard.
Sure, but we don't catch sunburn from each other. pic.twitter.com/UVLQcPbYhM— Shaun Micallef (@shaunmicallef) December 22, 2021
It's pretty funny that even the PM is like "It's the week of Christmas, mate, i've clocked off. Handle it yourself."— James Colley (@JamColley) December 22, 2021
The Australians take personal responsibility by wearing sunscreen analogy to not making a mask mandate is so funny coz Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer globally so we really aren't taking personal responsibility there either— Maxibon (@thiscassgirl) December 22, 2021
It feels worth reemphasising that, like bestie babe Shaun Micallef pointed out, sunburn and skin cancer are also not, in fact, contagious viruses!
As well as his silly little sunscreen metaphor, Scott Morrison also made a plethora of half-announcements, which would also be described as “wait-and-see” guidelines.
Some of the biggest sort-of-not-really-announcements involved booster shots. Despite rumours of the wait time for booster shots being reduced, Morrison said that the decision would be up to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
“Whether it’s five months or six months, or less than that, the response from all of us as governments is exactly the same and that is to increase those daily dosage rates from where we’ve already built back up to more than double in the past week or so.”
He also said that 100 booster shots a minute were currently being delivered.
There are rumours that some vaccination centres are giving out booster shots for those who’ve had their second jab four months ago.
One of our local Royal Exhibition Building vax nurses has advised that the State centres are now taking walk ins from 4 months. Plenty of Pfizer and Moderna available. Get on it and let people know!— Dr Lauren Hansen (she/her) (@Academatrix) December 20, 2021
State vaccination hubs will be reinstalled as demand for more vaccines increases and the federal government will pay GPs and pharmacies $10 more for vaccine appointments under Medicare.
The other big almost-news was centred around QR codes and contact definitions.
Despite not actually announcing anything, Morrison confirmed a national definition of casual contacts was coming…within the next two weeks.
“We’ve agreed today that we must have a common definition right across the country on what is a casual contact and what are the implications of being a casual contact isolation requirement for a PCR test and things of that nature,” he said.
“We cannot have different rules in different places about what a close contact is and what a casual contact is.”
Scott Morrison also confirmed that QR codes would play different roles depending on the COVID-19 situation in the state. Basically, if a state has low cases, codes will be used for tracing and where there are high cases, they won’t necessarily be.
“So QR codes and that process will take on different roles as we go forward in some states with very low cases, they will continue to be using them at for tracing.
“But in states which have very high case numbers. Well, that’s not a realistic proposition, but again, can provide a very helpful role.”
Plus, the government might look at rapid antigen testing (aka RATs) as opposed to PCR testing for international travel. That is, if you can get your hands on one.
It’s also unclear whether that will mean the rules in SA and WA will change – in both of those states, RATs are banned.
WA has also just introduced mandatory booster shots for a number of workers, as well as bringing back hard borders with both the NT and Tasmania.
So, the ultimate takeaway? The government will, maybe, do something that might affect you.
But instead of making any policy decisions, they’re relying on “common sense” and personal responsibility.
So keep wearing your mask (even if the government doesn’t tell you to) and don’t forget sunscreen, I guess.