Editorial: Political pandemic picnic

Filed in Just In, Opinions by September 12, 2021

POP quiz, which scenario presents the lowest risk of covid infection:

  1. hordes of people on Sydney beaches in groups of whatever they felt like, not wearing masks, not social distancing and staying there all day, or
  2. a fully vaccinated farming family visiting their neighbours in their paddock?

Of course scenario two is the safest option, but under new public health orders scenario two is illegal, because it’s not on public land, but clearly from everything we’ve witnessed on the news, authorities happily turn a blind eye to the beaches of Sydney, even before the rule came in. This rule is not about infection control and what police are “enforcing” is not based on the risk of infection and the “health orders” are not being applied evenly.

Premier Berejiklian initially announced five fully vaccinated adults could gather “outdoors” to “recreate”, but later stipulated it must be as an “outdoor public gathering”.

So as of Monday five fully vaccinated people can’t sit in a paddock or in their backyards, which are arguably bigger than many suburban parks in Sydney, because it is a public health risk, but the whole town can converge on Elizabeth Park, using the same bathroom facilities and that’s completely legal.

While the rules of the pandemic have been confusing, when you dig to the bottom of the detail they are founded in infection control principles, but this one is not – it does not decrease risk, it increases it.

Fair enough there are people who live in urban areas who don’t have a backyard and would need to go to a public space to meet with other vaccinated people, but restricting “outdoors” to mean public spaces only, is not about infection control.

Dr Kerry Chant clearly understands the principles when she said on Sunday, “I wouldn’t want crowds, people gathering, people socialising, that is not what we need at this moment.” 

Yet apparently all of these public health orders are based on “the best health advice”, according to the Premier. 

The section of legislation relating to maximum number of persons—outdoor public gatherings: “…if all persons participating in the gathering who are at least 16 years of age are fully vaccinated—5 persons, not including persons who are 12 years of age and under….carry vaccination evidence for the person (or in possession of a medical contraindication certificate)….produce the evidence if requested to do so by a police officer.” It must take place “within the local government area in which the person resides, or, if within another local government area, no further than five kilometres from the place of residence”.

So if you want to operate on the basis of reducing your risk of infection and quite reasonably don’t want to go to a public space with lots of others, then Cr Lee Watts advises your footpath is crown land, but added “just check that your street isn’t an alcohol free zone.”

All other stay at home orders remain and don’t expect them to be lifted until the Monday after the state reaches 70 percent double vaccination rate.

Enjoy your “recreating” on crown land!

Yours fully vaccinated,

 

 

Elizabeth Flaherty
Editor, scone.com.au

 

 

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