Throughout the pandemic, the Australian Government has been heavily focused on the economy, leaving Australians to fend for themselves, writes Lakeisha Watkins.
DESPITE THE TIME that has passed, Australia is still unable to manage this pandemic as it puts its focus into the wrong places.
Many of us have heard the phrase "we must learn to live with COVID" in recent months. Unfortunately, when the government uses this saying, it doesn't mean enacting strategies to minimise the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, politicians want us to let the virus spread throughout the country and continue to live our lives as though everything is fine.
Why? For the economy.
Despite the evidence of how rapidly the virus can spread, we are still being made to act as though everything is normal.
At the start of the new year, South Australia scrapped a range of COVID-19 requirements for travellers. Mandatory quarantine for double-jabbed international travellers was axed and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) were no longer required for interstate travellers. EntryCheck SA application systems were also shut down.
The state was then met with an influx of cases that swiftly destroyed the hard work that had been put into protecting the community.
With the arrival of the Omicron variant, the state went from being one of the least affected states to having cases rise above 30,000.
South Australia's hospitals are also facing a crisis, with the new cases pushing the system to breaking point.
Ambulance services have been stretched so thin that in some cases ambulances aren't able to be dispatched immediately. On 10 January, a three-year-old child was left waiting 51 minutes for an ambulance after suffering severe burns.
With Australia now the worst it has ever been regarding COVID-19, we're stuck with an inadequate and humiliating response from the government.
The vaccine rollout across Australia was agonisingly slow, yet now we're faced with a new issue - booster shots. Some Australians aren't eligible during a crucial time. Others are unable to get theirs due to low stock.
Children aged five to 11 were meant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in time to return to school. Yet this approach has already fallen through. Insufficient supply has once again ravaged our health care system.
Supply chains have been affected across many industries. Many are familiar with the sore sight of empty shelves in grocery stores in recent weeks.
The situation has become so severe that COVID positive workers at a South Australian abattoir are being told to continue to work. Isolation exemptions have also been introduced to ease staff shortages. This is a clear sign that the economy is valued much more than the health and wellbeing of citizens.
For so long, a focus has been placed on the economy throughout the pandemic. This has led us to where we are now. A period where many were unable to access RATs, the short supply of essential items and a country that is being inflicted with a deadly virus that destroys people's lives.
The Australian economy cannot thrive when our people are left to live with COVID-19. The economy cannot exist without workers. Yet the focus on healthcare has fallen when it is so crucially needed.
Furthermore, those who are most vulnerable are left to suffer. People surviving on government assistance are forced to live below the poverty line. Despite the high COVID cases, many on JobSeeker and other payments are still required to meet mutual obligations.
Older workers have also been encouraged to take up work during the shortages, despite having a higher risk of serious illness if they develop COVID-19.
Yet when you read stories on how the virus is affecting people, the voices of those most vulnerable are often omitted.
Throughout the pandemic, businesses have been plastered across many media outlets. Their struggles have drowned out those of the everyday person who has lost income and even those they love.
Local businesses are important. But why is such an emphasis placed on them? How many people who have had their lives upheaved by COVID-19 have had a chance to share their stories in mainstream media?
Many people will be forced to struggle yet again during this outbreak. Yet this time, there is little support.
In 2020, COVID supplements were introduced. These support payments were so effective that they lifted some of our most vulnerable people out of poverty. They also provided the lifeline necessary for workers who lost their jobs, students and many more people. But we no longer have this support system.
Price gouging was unchecked for too long when RATs went onto shelves - another instance of healthcare being kicked aside for profit. Now the Federal Health Department has had to buy $62 million worth of RATs.
So now here we are. A nation that lives with a government that decided to put the economy over the health of its people. We are all being left to struggle, while our government disregards healthcare until it is too late. How much longer can we survive such an approach?