This government’s preparedness and response to emergency situations fails every test.
I highlighted this in my recent article; ‘We were once prepared for this‘ in which I wrote:
In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.
We had to be prepared for it…
Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.
You may wish to read the whole article. It is not crucial that you do, but I encourage you as it provides a glimpse into the Coalition’s indifference to the threat of a pandemic.
Let’s now go back to 2007. I refer you to Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic. Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.
What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:
In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.
A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.
Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.
I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.
Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.
Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.
What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?
I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.
On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:
The Morrison government urgently purchased nearly $150,000 worth of thermometers at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in case they had to be deployed at the borders.
But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.
… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.
Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.
Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?
It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.
Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.
I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.
Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.
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