03/02/2022 - 14:00

State gets one shot at reopening

03/02/2022 - 14:00


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The waning protection offered by boosters may force the premier’s hand.

State gets one shot at reopening
The recent failure of process at Fiona Stanley Hospital shows how vulnerable the health system is to Omicron. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

No matter your view on Mark McGowan’s decision to leave the state in limbo, February 5 will now come and go with little fuss.

However, lurking in the January 19 written advice of the chief health officer, which prompted the reopening backflip, is a new and ominous deadline.

It is a date that cannot possibly be tinkered with no matter how popular the premier’s hard border might be.

Andrew Robertson – a former chief biological weapons inspector in Iraq – made a sobering point about the ongoing efficacy of the vaccines we’re told ad nauseum provide the only way out of this pandemic: their power to protect us decreases within months of being administered.

In the case of the now-critical third dose, or booster, 75 per cent of all Western Australian adults are expected to be covered by March 2, according to Dr Robertson.

“This is expected to have a significant impact on modelling up to the end of March 2022,” Dr Robertson told the premier.

“Beyond that date, the waning of protection from boosters is anticipated to offset this gain, particularly among the elderly and healthcare workers who were boosted early, and decisions on future dates would require further modelling.”

On my reading of that comment, people need to get triple-jabbed before the end of March or the entire vaccine mantra and rollout will start to count for nothing.

Remember, frontline healthcare workers were receiving their first shots in March, their second by April and their boosters in early December.

Latest studies, including one by the UK’s Health Security Agency, reveal that the third dose – needed to combat the Omicron variant – loses its effectiveness by up to 25 per cent just 10 weeks after being administered.

If that is accurate, then the clock is ticking for our nurses, doctors, pathology workers, hospital orderlies, paramedics and aged care staff.

By mid-February, the waning that Dr Robertson discussed, will have begun. The premier, in deciding to hold fire because of the Omicron threat, will have created a new quandary.

How to open the state when the biological barrier of those on the frontline can more easily be breached?

Ironically, given the premier’s ‘crush and kill’ slogan, Dr Robertson posed another scenario for guaranteeing our state reopens to the nation and the world.

“If the Omicron disease were to enter WA prior to WA opening, or the current outbreak becomes established, consideration should be given to opening the borders when WA reaches a community daily caseload above a threshold level,” Dr Robertson wrote.

While his advice did not include a specific daily caseload number, he acknowledged there was no point trying to stay shut once COVID-19 had busted through the hard border.

Recent positive case numbers suggest that has already occurred, and we will soon discover if the premier’s claim of a strong and ready health system is credible.

If not, he and his government will have to answer for that failure. The public certainly upheld its end of the draconian deal for more than two years to ensure the state was prepared.

Further to that, Dr Robertson’s advice included an unexpected reference to the health system’s state of readiness as of January 19.

“WA Health has been preparing the system for an expected Omicron outbreak on or after February 5 2022, noting the outbreak will peak approximately two months later,” Dr Robertson advised the premier.

Surely health chiefs have had all hospital staff on high alert since Omicron began its march across Australia in December?

Not even achieving that might explain why, according to Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, a confirmed COVID-19-positive mother and daughter were not immediately isolated when they arrived at Fiona Stanley Hospital recently.

The pair was told to sit in the emergency department waiting room even though the mother questioned the safety of the directive.

Earlier this month, Australian Nursing Federation secretary Mark Olson warned that opening in February would result in the state’s greatest ever public health disaster.

If nurses fail to properly manage COVID-19 patients at the entry to a major hospital, his prediction will be spot on.


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