Preservation of life, not lifestyle, is my concern
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PETER SINGER ON THE LOCKDOWN
Preservation of life, not lifestyle, is my concern
While I have enormous respect for Peter Singer, I take issue with a number of his comments (‘‘The saving and damaging of lives’’, Comment, 9/10). He acknowledges lockdowns reduce infection rates and save lives. However, he then goes on to suggest that, perhaps, lockdowns cause more harm than good, quoting various sources referring to delayed cancer screening and treatment, age-related life value, and the impact on employment and quality of life.
While these phenomena may result from lockdowns, the degree and severity is based on speculative modelling not necessarily on hard facts. The known, incontrovertible facts are that COVID-19 is highly infectious and deadly and can also cause severe long-term disability. Furthermore, although lockdowns may cause undesirable difficulties, I believe they will be temporary pending the availability of a safe, effective vaccine. The world will eventually recover, as it has done from previous disasters. As a medical practitioner, my main concern is health and the preservation of life, not lifestyle. Lockdowns, however unpleasant and unwanted, preserve lives.
Leslie Chester, Brighton
There are many positives to take into account
Peter Singer proposes expanding the matters considered in assessing the value of pandemic-related lockdowns. This should include the indirect health benefits of the lockdown.
Singer notes the reduction in flu-related premature deaths. Minor coughs and colds have also become far less prevalent. These can be a death sentence for those with pre-existing non-infectious respiratory illness. Reduced air pollution from decreased traffic must also have benefited these vulnerable people, including asthmatics and those with COPD. The lockdown should also have reduced non-respiratory infectious disease and road trauma.
But the largest health impact might result from the demonstration that working from home and remote learning, and decreasing non-essential travel including commuting, can sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If we remember this lesson after the pandemic, we could slow global warming and its potential deleterious health consequences across the globe.
Neville Nicholls, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University
An interesting, but incomplete, analysis
Peter Singer’s clear, dispassionate analysis of the choices between lockdown and greater spread of COVID-19 left me with the impression that, of two very harsh choices, lockdowns are less bad. However, it was almost as if a final few paragraphs went missing, his analysis petered out at the end, so I may be mistaken, but I wish that rigour and balance had carried through to the end of the piece.
Given there are costs – and some collateral benefits – to lockdowns and we must compare those costs with what is likely to happen if infections surge, as they have both here and all over the world, surely Singer can give us an opinion as to the scale of the trade off?
Andrew Cornell, Parkville
This is not a hypothetical parlour game
You have displayed a concerning fascination lately with treating the lockdowns as a simplistic trolley problem, most recently with a piece by Peter Singer, who says no analysis of whether lockdowns were the ‘‘right path’’ is complete without taking into account flow-on effects of unemployment, reduced standards of living, impacts on education, etc.
This is by now a familiar take, but treating COVID responses as a hypothetical parlour game in which some lives are traded off against others reveals not moral wisdom but rather a poverty of imagination.
These musings ignore the question of why structural and systemic forces mean that the trade-off must be considered at all. In a year when millions of jobs were saved by subsidising small businesses with JobKeeper, the JobSeeker rate was raised above the poverty line, funding to mental health and domestic violence services was enormously boosted, and Melbourne’s homeless population was housed, the more relevant moral question you should be posing to ethicists is why any of these things were considered impossible in the past.
Mitchell Edgeworth, St Kilda
Will you cover them?
A number of small business owners, businesses unidentified, bought a full-page ad in The Sunday Age (11/10) under the headline ‘‘Victoria Let’s Be Open!’’ seeking support to break Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown.
I have some questions for this group. Are your employees full-time or casual? If as a result of their work for you they need to have a COVID-19 test and self-isolate until a test result is received, will you pay them sick leave? Will they have their job after isolating?
If they actually get COVID-19 will they be paid sick leave until they recover? Will they have their job when they recover?
Perhaps, supporting other small businesses, they went to the pub, the gym, the hairdresser, etc, and were exposed. What support will you give them then?
You are calling for change, so what is your alternative plan of action for supporting your workers and the community to maintain a COVID-safe environment going forward?
Lockdowns of business, internal and international borders are not a viable medium or long-term solution. Missing from governments and businesses at all levels is how, in the absence of a vaccine, we manage COVID risks and outbreaks going forward – to the benefit of everyone, including workers.
Wendy Tanner, Footscray
My tolerance is waning
I am, as I suspect the majority of the population is, frustrated with and losing tolerance for the minority of Victorians flouting and protesting the current pandemic restrictions.
The full-page advertisement (11/10) placed by less than 100 businesses, out of more than 600,000 Victorian small businesses, disputing the current restrictions, is divisive and unhelpful.
While questioning the rationale behind the health-based and recommended restrictions, they offer no alternative plan as to how Victoria could be opened up without prolonging this COVID wave or avoiding a third one.
I sympathise with these businesses for their continued losses. However, the advertisement would have better served all of us if it had urged all Victorians to adhere to the restrictions in order to allow for a permanent, as opposed to a transient, opening up.
Edward Combes, Wheelers Hill
The buck stops here
Folks, if you really want to know who is responsible for the ‘‘quarantine debacle’’ and our lockdown restrictions, look no further than the individuals who cannot be trusted to do as they are asked. Those who break or refuse to quarantine. Those who won’t wear masks and/or safe distance.
If certain sections of the media and the opposition spent more time focusing on these people and stopped carping and scapegoating then maybe we could all enjoy more freedoms sooner.
Marion Pritchard, Ringwood North
We must see the rationale
Daniel Andrews and Brett Sutton need to provide the rationale for the restrictions being applied. Why recreation in the form of tennis and golf, both of which are naturally self-distancing activities, is banned would be a good place to start.
How has the five-kilometre rule altered the rate of infection, when a cleaner from Frankston can be the source for a serious outbreak in Chadstone and Kilmore that is now numbering close to 30 people?
People’s fear of losing their job or income is likely to be the driver of infections, how is this being addressed?
Fear or stupidity will always be with us, so how can locking down the majority, who do the right thing, solve that problem?
Peter Adam, Canterbury
It’s not a political issue
The thing that politicians like Michael O’Brien and Tim Smith seem not to realise about the coronavirus pandemic is that for many Victorians it is not a political issue, but a very personal public health one.
The fact that our recovery is being led by a politician is just a matter of fact and timing, not our choice.
O’Brien’s and Smith’s attempts to advance their careers by undermining the Premier’s recovery plan threaten not only public health, but quite probably their political aspirations too.
Chris Wilson, Poowong
They did it properly
There are many instances where people follow rules and their own common sense with very good results, an example being the nursing home where my husband lives, which is run by a not-for-profit organisation.
When things started to look grim in March, the home put into place its own plan to deal with the virus and for the care of the residents and the staff.
This included immediate lockdown, no staff to work in other locations and good infection control.
At the same time they kept in touch with relatives, encouraging Skype and phone calls for residents. Regular bulletins and newsletters were also provided to relatives.
I have just been allowed to visit again under strict conditions and the home is humming along as usual.
I cannot speak highly enough, and with gratitude, of the excellent staff and management of the home.
Kerry Seipolt, Richmond
I kept reading stories in the letters pages of The Age’s about how long postal delivery times were, and decided to do an experiment, to see how long (what you might expect would be) the fastest type of delivery would take.
On 19/9 I posted a letter to myself in a letterbox on a main road, a five-minute walk from my house. It arrived on 9/10, 20 days later.
Richard Fisher, Armadale
Stephen Duckett’s ‘‘A new approach to aged care is needed’’ was spot on (Comment, 10/10).
We have had enough of weasel words and directions, by federal Liberal and Labor governments, that do little to make aged care organisations, which already receive large amounts of tax-funded subsidies, accountable.
Regulations such as stipulating they should have ‘‘adequate’’ numbers of skilled staff, without these being specifically stated and mandated are meaningless.
Now instead of being forced to provide extra care, using their profits, many appear to be crying poor and holding out their hands for even more money.
The system of aged care run for profit must be challenged and changed.
Rita Thorpe, Coburg
Change the format
I watch the first part of Daniel Andrews’ daily press conferences and am increasingly aware of the tired nature of our Premier. No one can function effectively without a proper rest, he needs to refresh himself and restore his vitality.
The tedious nature of repetitive questions and constant attempts to get morsels of information on easing the restrictions get the same response every day.
It’s time for a new format and a better and more mature way of keeping us informed and giving us a sense of hope.
We have no alternative but to live with the virus and we cannot continue in a severe lockdown ad nauseam; there are too many adverse side effects.
Graham Reynolds, Soldiers Hill
What about the fathers?
The article ‘‘Mothers weigh up Labor’s childcare promise’’ (The Age, 10/10) casually perpetuates the stereotype that it’s only mothers who have to sacrifice their career for their children.
I got my magnifying glass out and scoured the report for any mention of fathers. No dads to see here, sorry. If your newspaper delivered to other planets, aliens would get the idea that adult male humans do not participate in the raising of their offspring.
Grant Morgan, Hurstbridge
The real ‘stubborn tail’
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says people delaying testing after the onset of symptoms is behind failure to reach the COVID-19 target level of under five a day on a 14-day average, senior doctors responding to Victoria’s deadly nursing home clusters warn there is no clear plan to counter another wave of coronavirus in aged care and Premier Daniel Andrews announces authorities are still battling the ‘‘stubborn tail’’ of Victoria’s second coronavirus wave, with current COVID-19 case numbers risking a third wave if the city and its economy open up. (‘‘‘No plan’ to counter next wave in aged care,’’ 11/10).
There’s a ‘‘stubborn tail’’ all right. It’s those who inexplicably, blatantly, and often antagonistically, seem to think that they have a special exemption from wearing a face mask at all, let alone as mandated – fitted, and covering nose, mouth and chin. Unsurprisingly physical distancing is also eschewed by this lot.
This is the ‘‘stubborn [recalcitrant] tail’’ that we can thank for cluster outbreaks and consequent delays in lifting lockdown and – heaven forbid – should there be a third wave.
Susan Caughey, Glen Iris
Lockup Land says thanks
Sitting here in Lockup Land growing ever more miserable as those pesky infection numbers refuse to plunge, I have reason to thank The Age for keeping me sane.
Specific thanks go to Tony Wright, whose humanity shines through his always beautifully crafted articles, and to Danny Katz, who never fails to make me laugh out loud.
Wendy Williamson, Badger Creek
A rare opportunity
Casino inquiries in both Victoria and NSW present both state governments with a rare and valuable opportunity to close these parasitic operations.
Casinos impoverish both gamblers and other useful businesses. They provide no net increase in employment or any useful outcome for the money that is spent there.
The post COVID-19 recovery requires more than ever for people to spend money where it will do the most good. Close the casinos, limit opening hours of pokies venues and enforce the self-exclusion system.
Mark Freeman, Macleod
Test everyone at risk
People who have been to a high-risk site are told to get tested if they develop symptoms. But many people who have been infected are asymptomatic, so everyone who has been to a high-risk site should get tested.
Daren Fawkes, Forest Hill
AND ANOTHER THING
Treat them as positive
Those people who present with COVID-like symptoms but refuse to be tested should be treated as positive, directed to isolate and slapped with a fine if they don’t comply.
David Marshall, Brunswick West
When the going gets tough, Mathias Cormann, the tough get going.
Rod Eldridge, Derrinallum
From the visionary Dick Hamer to the sniping Tim Smith – the demise of the Liberal Party is heartbreaking.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn
When the Coalition is asked about the most vulnerable in society it immediately thinks of its members in marginal seats.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool
The US situation has been described as political theatre, but to which genre does it belong: farce, tragedy or Pythonesque comedy?
Jon Smith, Leongatha
Australia is not aligned with the United States to protect itself from China. Australia is aligned with the US to protect itself from the US.
Norman Broomhall, Port Macquarie
A gentle warning to the Richmond coach: those who “live on the edge” eventually crash down the cliff.
Brian Morley, Donvale
Last time I was at an Essendon game, I yelled out “go, Daniher”, “go, Saad”, “go, Fantasia”. I think they took it the wrong way: I didn’t mean “leave”.
Peter Heffernan, Balaclava
For the record
The first Australian Grammy winner was not Helen Reddy in 1973, it was Joan Sutherland in 1961 (Superquiz, 8/10).
David Brash, Caulfield North
This 84-year-old objects strenuously to the ill-informed ageist critics who refer to young Joe Biden as being ‘‘old’’ at 77.
Ronald Burnstein, Heidelberg
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