Open Letter To PM Scott Morrison of Australia

Dear Mr Morrison

I am writing to inform you that I have left instructions for my estate to sue you personally if I die with COVID-19 before the term of your Government expires (if it serves the full 3 years).

As a 50 year old male with a pre-existing respiratory condition – asthma – I am in a higher risk category for suffering serious illness and death with COVID-19.

As Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreysus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Twitter on 29 February, “If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick”.

I note, Mr Morrison, that you are not in agreement with this advice because you are still encouraging all Australians to go about their business normally in order to delay or minimise the impacts on the economy.

With a research background in infectious disease and virology, and experience in biosecurity policy development, I have little confidence in you and your Government to protect me and fellow Australians.

My assessment is that in the play-off between minimising economic impacts and minimising impacts on society, i.e. deaths of people who would normally be expect to live many more years and contribute to society, you and your Government are most concerned with minimising economic impacts.

Australia is endowed with significant geographical advantages for mitigating the risk of disease incursions, and we certainly make use of that advantage when we market our animal and plant products for export.

That, and the political pressure that those industries place on Governments, is why each year an extraordinary sum of Government finances is allocated to quarantine efforts at our ports of entry and to eradicating any animal or plant disease incursion that occurs.

Unfortunately for Australian society, your Government gives every indication of caring more about the health of prawns and bananas than about the health of Australians.

If the same level of biosecurity that is applied to prawns were applied to humans then there would be mandatory checks – not just for symptoms, but for the virus – at the border. 

Or entry would be banned. As we are now in a pandemic, by definition we will always be behind the curve if we only ban entry from countries once we know that many people there are dying.

Australian exceptionalism does not extend to this pandemic as nobody is immune to infection. But Australia is different from other developed countries as being in the southern hemisphere we will have to endure a full winter – a very tense cold and flu season – without any hope of a vaccine being administered en masse.

I have little doubt that Dr Tedros was especially talking to your Government, and others with a similar predisposition, when he said that the WHO raising the global risk assessment for COVID-19 to very high was “a reality check for every Government… The window of opportunity is closing. Wake up!”

I am suggesting that all Australians who share my view that societal impacts should win out over economic should immediately let that be known to you, Prime Minister, and their local member.

Dr Brett F Edgerton (BSc, PhD)

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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