There is a song that comes to mind when I think of the current restrictions we face in Tasmania due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s the Drifters immortal version of Save the Last Dance For Me, because to be frank, at the moment no one knows when that might be here in Tasmania, unless you’re part of a wedding party.
However, one thing I’d say most people do know in the state is as it stands the current social distancing restrictions in Tasmania are wearing thin and the sooner something is done about them the better.
Like many in the community, I have been very supportive of the State Government and particularly the Premier, Peter Gutwein, for being a tower of strength as we have faced a pandemic the scale of which nobody has seen since the Spanish flu a century ago.
Happily, the vast majority of Tasmanians have been willing to comply with social distancing restrictions, lockdowns and significant limitations on many businesses because we all understand that in this case, prevention is better than cure when it comes to COVID-19.
However, this has come at a significant cost – our children have missed vital school days, many in our community who work in hospitality and tourism face the unemployment queues, while some businesses, particularly small to medium businesses, sadly may never open again.
Now though, it is time for the Government to reconsider its approach, as my sense is the goodwill of Tasmanians is starting to waver.
This has been highlighted by a recent EMRS survey undertaken on behalf of the Federal Group to the community supporting an easing of restrictions.
When asked what they were most concerned about when facing the COVID crisis, some 93 per cent were worried about impacts on local businesses, 95 per cent worried about local jobs and 94 per cent were worried about the impacts on the local economy.
Compare this to the 60 per cent who cited health concerns, some one-third less of the community, and you begin to see a picture that says people are voting with their feet, more concerned about the economic impact of COVID than the health impact.
And, it is not hard to understand why that is the case.
With more than 100 days since any form of community transmission of COVID in Tasmania, most people see the health risks are now diminished.
These comments should not be confused with complacency, because in the initial lockdown and restrictions Tasmanians have shown they are willing to play by the rules and do all in their power to ensure the community is protected.
However, it is safe to say that because people don’t see a risk, particularly with our border closed, the current restrictions are starting to look out of touch.
This was highlighted by one gym owner, Dean Ewington, who simply stated if the restrictions continued as they were he would be opening his facilities, with or without Government approval.
Then, only days later, the Government relented, obviously on advice from the Director of Public Health and gyms can now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A decision that has been welcomed by the industry.
However, in other areas the restrictions still apply – household gatherings are limited to 20, while churches and commercial premises can only have 250 people at one time indoors and 500 people outdoors.
Then it appears dancing has been singled out on the basis of risk of disease transmission due to close proximity of people, but the question I ask, does this pass the pub test?
… it is time for the Government to reconsider its approach …
To be frank, if there has been no community transmission for 100 days, the borders are closed and there is a one in 10 million risk of getting COVID from a non-COVID area, do we really need to place ourselves at a higher level of protection than the one in five million chance of dying in an air crash?
The feeling is no and I know that an increasing number of those in the community see this and agree.
It’s time for the Government to realise the current level of restrictions in Tasmania are unnecessary and having an unnecessary impact on many businesses.
Don’t forget it was only a decade or two ago when many of our young people were leaving Tasmania in search of work.
Now we possibly face that again when they are allowed to travel, because their existing jobs are gone and will not return unless these restrictions are lifted.
Tasmanians have shown they will comply with the law to protect against COVID, but when there is no threat, it is simply punishing those who can least afford it.
So if you don’t mind, save the last dance for me – because at this rate we don’t know when it is going to happen.
- Tania Rattray, independent McIntyre MLC