Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has warned that vaccinations are no silver bullet for Australian society to return to normal and has called on political leaders to be “upfront” and tell Australians they need to “live with the virus.”
Canavan made the comments on Aug. 4, in Parliament during the second reading of a new Bill to finance support payments to businesses.
“It is past time as a nation that we in this place, of all people, be upfront with the Australian people and get rid of the fantasy and fairytales that we are continually trying to put the Australian people to sleep with,” he told the Senate.
“We should front up to them with the facts and the reality of this terrible pandemic and what might happen in the next few years in this country regardless of what we do or how many people get vaccinated in the months ahead,” he added.
On Aug. 3, the Doherty Institute held a press conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to outline the modelling used to underpin the federal government’s strategy for easing COVID restrictions via staged vaccination targets.
The modelling (pdf) suggested that even if 80 percent of Australians were vaccinated - which according to the federal government’s plan would be when the international border restrictions were eased - in just 180 days, over 40,010 vaccinated Australians could become symptomatically infectious, with 439 potential deaths.
A further, 238,991 unvaccinated Australians could also be infected, with 842 deaths.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has noted that the higher the vaccination rate was, the lower the infection and death rate.
Senator Canavan said the “truth of the situation” was that restrictions would remain for the long term.
“Those 280,000 coronavirus infections would be in a world where we still had a two-square-metre rule; they would be in a world, according to this modelling, where we would still have only 70 percent capacity at sporting stadiums,” he said.
“It would be a world where we still had testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine.”
“I’m pro-vaccine. But we cannot keep telling people the fantasy that we can solve all these problems,” he added.
“If we don’t be upfront with the Australian people, we will not be able to get out of this, and we will continue these very cruel lockdowns, which are causing enormous costs on our economy and particularly on people.”
The senator was also critical of the cost of lockdowns and said their effectiveness was questionable.
Research from the Burnet Institute, another medical research body, estimated that recent lockdowns in Sydney, NSW helped avoid 4,000 infections. While investment fund AMP estimated the lockdowns were costing $150 million per day.
“So, at the 35-day mark, the lockdowns had cost $5.3 billion to avoid 4,000 coronavirus cases,” he said.
“We are spending $1.3 million to avoid each and every coronavirus case. That is $1.3 million for each case—not a fatality, not an admission to an ICU ward, but for each case.”
“We do not apply that in any other public policy issue,” Canavan said.
“Twenty-two thousand Australians a year die from smoking, 5,000 die from alcohol, and around 1,000 die on our roads. We do not ban these things; we live with them.”
Currently, three states of Australia have parts that are enduring lockdown restrictions due to the low vaccination rates in Australia.