Not content with manipulating the fears of older Queenslanders, the Premier has now moved to frightening parents.
In a desperate attempt to deflect criticism from her border decisions, Palaszczuk said that any opening of the border before “every child [is] vaccinated” was putting children at risk.
“You open up this state and you let the virus in here and every child under 12 is vulnerable, every single child.”
Not only does this conflict with the scientific evidence, it also sets a requirement for opening that no government can ever reach.
At present, 7 per cent of people over 70 who contract Covid will end up in ICU, with 46 per cent needing hospitalisation for a less severe set of symptoms.
In contrast, even for the Delta strain, just 0.1 per cent of people under 14 who contract it will find themselves in ICU.
This is why a long line of medical experts have advised against the need to vaccinate children under 12.
Queensland paediatrician Professor Robert Booy says “keeping borders shut because of the children is not a sensible measure”. He makes it very clear that the risk exists only for the small number of children who are already complex cases because of existing chronic conditions.
Professor Fiona Russell, paediatrician with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, has explained that while children can exhibit flu-like symptoms, they rarely become seriously ill, even with the Delta strain. As she put it, “Covid in kids is nothing like what occurs in adults.”
And in responding to Palaszczuk’s fear-mongering, Professor Paul Kelly – Australia’s chief medical officer – said that even with the Delta variant, there is “very little evidence anywhere in the world that severity has increased” for childhood infections.
Using NSW as an example, Professor Kelly explained that most of the children hospitalised for Covid reasons were there because their parents were sick and couldn’t look after them.
What Palaszczuk neglected to mention was that there is no vaccine recommended for children under 12 – not in Australian or another country. This means she’s setting a requirement for opening the borders that no government can reach.
This overreach exposes what has been at the heart of her motivation for months now: using fear to maintain power and control.
It was one thing to lock Queenslanders in when there was no vaccine, but Australians now have access to vaccines in abundance. To continue to lock up Queenslanders indefinitely – even when 70 or 80 per cent of the community is vaccinated – is plainly unreasonable. Yet this is what the Premier is calling for by suggesting we must wait until a vaccine for kids has been invented, tested, manufactured and distributed. No such vaccine is even on the horizon.
What’s worse is that the Premier has no alternate plan to hiding under the doona for the foreseeable future. Snap lockdowns and closed state borders – with their dubious constitutionality in an environment of abundant vaccines – are no recipe for confronting and dealing with this virus.
The Doherty modelling is clear. At 70 and 80 per cent vaccination, the harms that come to physical and mental health exceed the risk that comes from Covid itself.
Federal Labor agrees with the national plan. Asked about Palaszczuk’s comments Labor leader Anthony Albanese said “we need to follow the health advice”. Deputy leader Richard Marles said “I would be distancing myself from the comments of Anastacia.”
It’s time for the Premier to stop toying with the health, safety, livelihoods, and economy of Queenslanders. Time for her to stop undermining confidence in the vaccine, and confidence in the National Plan without an alternate vision of her own.
Rather than playing games, the Premier should focus on getting Queensland’s hospitals up to scratch. Ramping rates at hospitals are a far bigger risk to children with complex and chronic conditions than Covid.
There’s only one plan on the table for safely moving out of the pandemic and confidently resuming normal life, giving our children confidence of continuity in their education, job stability and business viability. The economic support measures cannot go on forever – and it would be corrosive to our national morale if they did.
It’s time for the Queensland Labor Government to honour the commitment they made at National Cabinet in July, and get serious about implementing the National Plan.