This letter was submitted today via the online Contact The Premier portal.
Dear Premier Palaszczuk
On Monday evening my family sat down to watch 4 Corners. After 15 minutes my 15 year old eldest son, returning from the rest room, asked if we could turn off the program as it was upsetting him and making him anxious. Of course we did so and discussed his fears.
He was scared by hearing how well-informed and intelligent people at Australia’s frontline of the fight against COVID-19 were scared for their own lives and the lives of and impacts on their family.
I explained that it was perfectly normal to be scared because this is serious event that will impact our country and be remembered for the rest of our lives. I confirmed that I, too, was scared. But I promised my family, again, that I will continue to do everything in my power to protect us from the worst direct impacts of this disease.
I have a professional background in research in infectious disease and virology, and worked for a period in biosecurity policy development working on risk analyses for aquatic invertebrates (prawns, freshwater crayfish and bivalve molluscs).
I also count the original describer of the causative virus of COVID-19 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Dr Shi Zhengli, as a personal friend and former colleague (and co-author) as I worked in the lab where she did her PhD.
My sons both are afraid of being made to go back to school when they do not feel comfortable that it is safe for them or our family. We in our family are about as well informed as anybody can be having access only to publicly available data.
The Queensland State Government approach of opening schools prior to mid-winter, and the Federal Government ambitions to progressively open the economy, does not accord with the level of risk that we as a family are prepared to accept.
I have been a stay at home parent since our eldest son was born. We as a family made a commitment to eschew additional wealth, such as delaying buying a family home and other trappings of extra disposable income, to concentrate on giving our children the best start in their life as is possible. I am actively engaged with their education and have been ensuring that their distance schooling has progressed smoothly this year. Both of our sons are well settled into a routine in social isolation.
I recognise that we are fortunate with the decisions that we have made in our family life to be able to deal with this pandemic, but I consider it a serious breach of my rights to have to follow a directive to send children to school and take on additional risks that we as a family do not want and have no need to experience.
I would hope that any directives on education that you implement would recognise that all Queenslanders have different attitudes to risk and different circumstances, and that it is a personal right to decide on what risk we will accept when facing a once in 100 year pandemic. In other words, any opening of schools should not be compulsory, and families that decide to continue with distance education should not be disadvantaged in making such a choice.
Finally, I have followed with concern the growing issue of COVID-19 impacts on food processing, and especially meat processing. Having experience in this field, and being aware of the latest research on viability of SARS-CoV-2, I consider that the food safety guidelines are inadequate with respect to this pathogen. The closing of a meat processing facility in Melbourne, with it now confirmed that over 10% of their workforce are infected with the virus, proves that this will be an area of critical concern.
This is an issue of great import to food processing workers for health and safety issues, and to the wider public as SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to remain largely infective for 14 days at +4 Celsius and other coronaviruses have remained infective for 2 years at -20 Celsius.
Obviously this also presents risks to agriculture as North American pig producers had to euthanise stock which could not be processed due to plant closures.
What testing are you currently doing on food processing employees and when did those testing programs commence? What additional risk mitigations factors are being implemented in food processing facilities? Will you make all of this information public so that people can make fact-based decisions on what risks they are prepared to take when purchasing, preparing and consuming food products?
Given the critical nature of these issues, a timely response to these concerns and questions would be greatly appreciated.
Dr Brett F Edgerton (BSc, PhD, GradCertCom)
I would encourage all Australians to write similar letters to their own State Premiers, and please feel free to model your letter – and use as much of my text as you wish – to have your opinion heard.
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020