When a new virus appears, we can expect that mistakes will be made as governments learn to tackle it. However, viruses can be unforgiving and if the lessons are not learnt, people will die.
While leaving things to business may appeal to many of particular ideological persuasion, tackling a pandemic is not one of them, as only governments are capable of:
- a.enacting legislation or regulations to specify the public and corporate behaviours that control the spread of the virus.
- b.directing use of public resources and expert personnel to contain the virus.
In dealing with a pandemic, it is important to have people in charge who are practical and can respond quickly to what is actually happening on the ground.
This typically requires avoiding those with strong ideologically-based opinions, as they are more likely to:
- a.favour their preferred ideological position over reality.
- b.blame others for the problem, especially those opposed to their position, or those without the power to protect themselves.
- c.avoid taking responsibility, as it may expose their ideology to criticism.
- d.provide misleading information that minimises or avoids their own contributions to the situation, especially if it implicates their ideology.
Typical organisations to be wary of taking advice at face value from are:
- a.political parties, just because they tend to be ideology-bound.
- b.religious organisations, unless dealing with the people who have direct and extensive knowledge relevant to the pandemic or its effects.
- c.company representatives or industry-group lobbyists, unless seeking their expertise in relation to their staff or members needs.
That leaves the most reliable people as those who have studied the social-biological dynamics of viruses and have a proven track record of being able to adapt their methods to deal with the situation as it plays out in real time.
Unfortunately, too many governments have been more focused on avoiding economic fallout rather than dealing with containing the virus. This highlights why such governments end up having high numbers of deaths while prolonging the currency of the virus.
Another problem is when government-appointed experts are too willing to toe the government line, rather than serve the public. The outcome is that they downplay actual concerns and peddle the government's agenda while dismissing those legitimate concerns.
An example of this is the vaccine hestancy caused by concern over the blood-clotting side-effects of the Astrazenica vaccine. In Australia, the federal government and its Secretary of the Department of Health, Dr Brendan Murphy, have been emphasising the low likelihood of the side-effects and equating that with overall risk.
However, risk is assessed on both likelihood and severity, and when death is on the table, most are choosing not to have it, given the low risk of Covid infection in Australia. People are not convinced of government spin when it comes to the real decisions over their health, and using medical people to justify that spin only furthers more distrust in government and vaccines and science in general.
Not swiftly handling outbreaks produces long-term economic problems as peoples' savings are swallowed up in keeping themselves afloat, and many small businesses fail, leaving more people without an adequate living. Of course, this serves those of conservative persuasion as it makes more people economically disadvantaged so they are more likely to take low-paying jobs, while those at the top of the economic ladder have no problem make more money from the mass suffering.
Economic and political ideology should have no place in public health as it has been shown to severely limit a proper public response to managing society-wide health threats. We are seeing the real downside of what a concerted effort to cripple government for the economic advantage of a few really means for the general well-being.
Public health must be the primary duty of care for a government. Without that, a country becomes crippled.