"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ear," for I come to bury my head in the sand.
Australia takes pride in its lack of class divides, with no dukes or duchesses to cut in the line, but we live hooded, and if nothing else the pandemic has laid bare just how stratified we are in this country.
2022 has been heralded with an unprecedented spike in COVID cases - with NSW recording over 20,000 cases at the time of writing - and no lockdown in sight, for we must now learn to "live with the virus". Last year, a handful of cases could spark a snap lockdown, but not this year.
Our governments haven't learnt from the vaccine debacle of 2021, it seems, with rapid antigen testing becoming just as scarce as the vaccines were last year. As the country shifts from PCR testing to a mixed approach of both PCR and rapid antigen testing, COVID has once again had a price tag attached to it. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has said that the federal government would not supply free RAT kits, stretching only to funding half the costs of RAT kits purchased by states to be handed out free to identified close contacts. For everyone else, you're on your own.
For Brutus is an honourable man.
The government hip pocket seems to be the main focus here, with Mr Morrison stating "we've invested hundreds of billions of dollars getting Australia through this crisis" - and yet here we are, at over 30,000 cases daily in Australia, next to no RAT kits available, GPs expecting delays to COVID booster deliveries, and significant impact on employment, mental health and business (particularly micro/small business). I'd say that's money well spent, no? Of this money, $6.2 billion was spent in JobKeeper wage subsidies to businesses with more than $10 million in annual turnover that did not experience a minimum 30 per cent decline in the first six months of the scheme - but sure, let's continue to provide opportunities for big business to cash in on COVID and the desperation of individuals to protect themselves and their families by refusing to "undercut businesses" selling RAT kits.
Has it ever been made more clear that our government is representing corporate Australia and passing the bill on to the taxpayers?
I am curious as to why Harvey Norman - a furniture, appliance and tech company - is selling RAT kits, and I'm further interested to know why it's such a great idea to encourage individuals who are concerned they have contracted COVID to enter into a major shopping outlet to purchase RAT kits (that aren't in stock, mind you). I rather think Harvey Norman has made enough money out of COVID, receiving $22 million in JobKeeper payments (repaying just $6 million) and publishing record revenue throughout the pandemic, don't you?
The announcement that PCR testing would not be covered by Medicare if it is deemed to be "unnecessary" was a further blow to public confidence in "living" with this virus. Once again, people without the money to spare will stay home in case their test is not considered "necessary", unable to afford RAT kits, if they are even in stock, and suffering in silence at home, too scared to leave the house in case they spread the disease within the community. Or worse, going out in public not knowing they are positive and exacerbating the spread. The government has effectively thrown its weight behind big business (again), forced the individual to take responsibility for the government's ineptitude at managing the virus and lockdown exit, and it is the individual who will ultimately be paying the price. Literally and figuratively.
But Brutus is an honourable man.
Wealth is not the only divide in our society. "Living" with the virus is a privilege possible only to those of good health. For people living with disabilities, it often feels like they are being made the (un)willing sacrifice to the God of Economic Power, while big business drops grapes into his mouth like clockwork. The government forgets, I think, that the "hundreds of billions" they have poured into COVID management has come from us in the first place. It is their job to manage this crisis. It is literally what we pay them to do.
But Scott is an honourable man.
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