The price of freedom

A friend is currently in hotel quarantine with his wife and two teenaged sons and he’s drawn the short straw.

While I’ve watched more fortune souls score apartments and balconies and even have exercise bikes delivered to their doors, my friend is doing it tough at a Sydney CBD hotel.

He posted this pic on social media:

And wrote: “Heating food in quarantine by using two irons. No microwave, no toaster, no oven, no sink, no washing machine, two brothers 18yo and 19yo told to share a double bed, no cot bed provided, no balcony, no windows that open, WiFi that locks you out every few minutes, TV hasn’t worked for 2 days. It’s nearly over, two full days to go. Welcome home!”

Things are much easier at my place in lockdown, but I’m still pretty fed up. My kids need to get on with their lives. And so do the rest of us.

I was late to the vaccination party, but I’m starting to dance. It’s time to do whatever it takes to get on top of this thing, so we have some hope of getting to the other side and adapting to the new normal.

Yesterday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard emphasised the importance of getting vaccinated, and made a very good point to those people still feeling hesitant.

“I would like to take the opportunity, though, just to raise one issue and that is in terms of hesitancy around vaccine, I want to remind people that if you’re over 60, if you get COVID, you have a 1 in 200 chance of dying,” he said.

“If you’re over 50, you have a 1 in 500 chance ever dying if you got the COVID virus. But in terms of the broader issue, it’s just… It is far more effective that you would have the vaccines and make sure that you avoid those risks because if you have the vaccine, you have a 1 in 2 million chance of actually dying, so the odds are with you.

“You can take a bet on TAB and you’d be doing far better if you’d had the vaccine.”

Mind you, as I mentioned in my blog post yesterday, I’m not entirely sure I want the other side to look like the UK.

Britain celebrated “Freedom Day” earlier this week, with the government lifting most COVID-19 restrictions in the country on July 19. 

Masks and QR codes to enter pubs are no longer be a legal requirement, table-service-only rules are gone, nightclubs have reopened and there are no limits on how many people can meet.

More than 79 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK, with 64% of adults having received two doses.

England has the seventh highest COVID death toll in the world at 128,708. It is forecast to soon have more new infections each day than it did at the height of a second wave of the virus earlier this year, although daily deaths are falling. There are only about 40 per day, compared to above 1800 in January.

Currently, one in 95 people in England has COVID, according to the Office for National Statistics. And hospital admissions rose 61% last week to 4.43 for every 100,000 people.

I wrote a story over at Drinks Digest about public – and expert – fears that COVID-19 restrictions are ending too soon.

Like the UK, Israel and the Netherlands opened up after vaccinating most of their people, but have reimposed some restrictions after new infections surged. The Dutch prime minister even admitted that lifting restrictions too early “was a mistake.”

BMJ notes: “In June, Israel’s successful vaccination programme saw infections plummet and the country drop nearly all of its social distancing restrictions, but four weeks later the government was forced to reimpose certain restrictions as the delta variant spread across the country.”

Leading international scientists are describing Freedom Day as a threat to the whole world. 1200 scientists backed a letter to British medical journal The Lancet, criticising the government’s decision.

They say a COVID-19 strategy that tolerates high levels of infection is “both unethical and illogical”.

“We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment,” they said.

Blimey, I would be feeling a bit scared if I was in the UK right now. Lockdown sucks and has left our hospitality industry in tatters, but the current 29 people in ICU in Australia due to COVID-19 is sobering enough. There are 611 people on ventilators in the UK.

I will be watching with nervous interest to see what happens to those numbers in the coming weeks.

My friend in quarantine rang me last night. He said the US gave up on enforcing COVID restrictions a long time ago. People are too worried about being shot to demand someone wears a mask.

More than 600,000 people have died over there. Infections are on the rise again.

However, due to the high vaccination rates in the US, symptoms are milder and less likely to be fatal.

“The decoupling between cases and deaths has really occurred,” Andrew Pavia, who specialises in infectious diseases at the University of Utah, told reporters at an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing last week. “We’re seeing an increase in deaths but not nearly to the degree previously.”

It makes my brain hurt just thinking about lies ahead for Australia. We still have a long way to go and so many difficult decisions to make.

We are quick to criticize those making the decisions, but I can’t even imagine how tough their jobs must be at the moment.

These here are crazy times. But, hey, Brisbane got the 2032 Olympics. Hope is the last thing ever lost.

Song of the day: REM “End of the world”

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