Australia’s state premiers have been accused of acting like Wild West gunslingers and competing to see who can be quickest on the draw – and the toughest – to implement lockdown restrictions as the latest wave of the pandemic sweeps the country.
National employer body, the Ai Group, has warned of panicked responses, the dangers of needlessly scaring people, and the need to mitigate the harsh economic impacts of tough restrictions and lockdowns.
“This isn’t the gunfight at the OK Corral. There is a danger that competitive federalism may be becoming a contest over which premier can pull the lockdown trigger first,” Innes Willox, the Chief Executive of the Ai Group – more formally known as the Australian Industry Group – warned yesterday (Monday).
“We need to avoid panicked responses and governments need to weigh health and broader advice.”
SA response with no cases may be an overreaction
Willox said the latest imposition of restrictions in South Australia without a single case risked being seen as an overreaction.
“Other states are on the verge of their own disproportionate reactions and business calls on state and territory leaders to prioritise testing and tracing, which has in many cases achieved the same results as the harshest of restrictions – but with less impact on lives and livelihoods.”
According to the Ai Group, local eradication may be possible in the short term, but it is an impossible long-term goal considering that the virus will be present around the world for many years to come.
“We need some common sense injected into discussions on when and if to lock down, and some forward thinking about what living with Covid will look like when high vaccination levels are reached,” Willox stated.
“The losers in the kneejerk lockdown contest are the community and the businesses that provide goods, services and jobs.”
‘The virus has a way of getting in’ warns SA medic
In announcing tougher new measures for South Australia that came into effect from midnight last night and will last for a week, Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said it was to prevent the virus getting into the state.
Although there were no known infections in SA, “this virus has a way of getting in here”, she explained.
“This is a really significant risk. If we get this Delta strain in our community … we will have a very serious problem that I can’t promise we’ll get on top of.
“If anyone wants to think about what kind of problem it could be, look at NSW at the moment.”