The experts warned us of the potential for a ‘second wave’ of the COVID-19 virus in Australia at a time when the nation appeared to be emerging from lockdown in relatively good shape from the medical viewpoint but at a staggering cost in economic and social terms.
Now, as the Victorian experience reveals just how serious a second wave of the pandemic can be both for human health and an even worse outlook for economic and social circumstances, it is almost as if the nation is standing on a war footing.
The effect of the mindless virus on Australia can almost be equated with the invasion of our continent by a hostile enemy which has rained down bombs and artillery on populations, industry and infrastructure.
The remorseless attack has seen industries closed, massive unemployment, and the severing of infrastructure links while casualties mount in the general population.
The prospects for the defeat or retreat of the enemy depend on the arrival of a vaccine or an arsenal of effective treatments which may lie many more months in the future.
In the meantime our governments continue to rack up expenditures which only half a year ago would have appeared unbelievable.
But now the costs to the nation are almost casually mentioned in terms of scores of billions of dollars with an expectation that it will be 30 years before the federal budget deficit is brought back into order.
The distressing and sobering realisation that Australia is in a lengthy battle with the COVID-19 virus continues to be reflected in the warnings issued daily to the general public: personal and venue hygiene awareness, social distancing, testing, and a high level of personal responsibility (which includes isolation when necessary). That these messages may have failed to register sufficiently may be reflected in the causes and spread of the second wave outbreak in Victoria, mainly in Melbourne- and the series of alarming incidents in NSW which demonstrate that smaller communities, suburbs and country, can be visited by the virus without warning.
Despite the serious situation in which Australia finds itself we are reminded often that many other nations around the globe are facing Covid-19 outbreaks of far greater magnitude and severity.
Limiting, mitigating and perhaps one day eliminating the virus in this country represents the principal health objective but the tasks of restoring jobs, productivity and social well-being will be the multi-billion dollar challenges for state and federal governments.
Last week the Morrison government presented the Australia people with an account of the financial damage caused by huge lockdown of industry and commerce, education, infrastructure and more made necessarty by the arrival of the virus on our shores.
The record $184.5 billion budget shortfall for 2019-20 may just be a weathervane for the future but we should all realise that all governments – state and federal – are now sailing on largely uncharted financial seas.
The job of restoring ‘normalacy’ will not be easy.
Government income will be badly compromised for years and it is likely that stimulus measures will depend on new borrowings.
Restoring industry, jobs and productivity will need creativity and co-operation, meeting welfare, education and healthcare commitments will be a rocky road.
For example, the nation has a key responsibility to help young people complete disrupted education years, gain skills and career training … and be found jobs!
The Morrison government has generally received praise for its initial response to the COVID-19 invasion.
The next landmark budget will be announced in October.
The government has signalled that revisions will occur in the two principal stimulus measures – Jobkeeper and Jobseeker – and it is likely that other job creation and infrastructure programs will be announced to ensure that millions of Australians are kept in work.
Currently, there is no shortage of experts, commentators and opposition politicians who have particular recovery barrows to push.
The How, Why and What of the government response will eventually be revealed but it is certain that the course ahead remains long and conditions may be rough.
As weary as we are of the Covid pandemic, we will need to maintain our determination and resilience to share the journey together.To order photos from this page click here