When Andrew Barr announced Canberra's first COVID death just over two years ago on March 30, 2020, it was headline news. He made an emotional appeal for residents to take all possible precautions and said it was a tragic reminder of "just how serious this situation is".
The ACT had recorded one confirmed case in the previous 24 hours and there were just 78 cases in total, only two of whom were in hospital.
Since then 58 people have died, three since Monday. Of those, 20 had been in residential aged care. Most of the deaths have occurred since the start of the Omicron outbreak late last year and the subsequent early easing of restrictions.
As of Wednesday there were 5801 active cases in the territory, bringing the cumulative total since 2020 to 114,564 people or an estimated 26.56 per cent of the population. That is slightly above the national figure of 24.79 per 100 residents.
It would seem, on the face of it, the risk of catching COVID is as great as it has ever been and that as many - or more - people are dying from it now as at the height of the pandemic.
So, given the response to COVID over the past two-and-a-bit years is integral to the election campaign, why is nobody talking about the latest numbers? All the discussion is about events such as the bungled vaccine roll out, the RAT kit shortage, and border closures that happened months and years ago.
Politicians aren't the only ones either blind to, or choosing to ignore, what is happening. There seems to be a widespread belief we are living in a post-COVID era even though the statistics suggest anything but.
As far as the federal, state and territory governments are concerned all is for the best in this best of all possible "living with COVID" worlds. There are enough RATs to go around, schools are allegedly operating normally - even though parents, teachers and students know that is not the case, health care is said to be holding up - despite claims by workers to the contrary, and COVID-induced staff absences are "managed" by easing restrictions even further and repeatedly redefining what is a "close contact".
Is there a national conspiracy to pretend that just because we're done with COVID it is done with us? Death and hospitalisation rates that would have caused serious alarm six months ago barely rate a mention on the evening news.
We are more concerned about the price of lettuces and petrol than that on Wednesday 76 of our neighbours were in hospital. Four of them were fighting for their lives in intensive care.
While nobody wants to see a return to the harsh lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 we know there are simple and effective ways to slow the spread of the virus and to protect the elderly and the vulnerable.
These are to wear a mask, have your vaccination boosters, and to practice good personal hygiene and social distancing.
Why is it, for example, that although 97.1 per cent of Canberrans have had two jabs only 75.7 per cent have had their third dose?
This is the really important one the medical experts say does most to stop people from catching or transmitting the virus.
Why is it that neither the federal, state or territory governments are pulling out all of the stops to encourage people to get that third jab? It would appear the last time the Health Minister Greg Hunt put out a media release calling for people to be boosted was in late March.
COVID-19 is not out of sight and it certainly shouldn't be out of mind. Unless more is done to encourage people to act responsibly by using PPE and having their third jab the "new normal" could go from bad to worse very quickly. Winter is coming.
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