Don't think for a moment that just because territory and federal politicians have stopped holding hour-long and daily COVID-19 media conferences the pandemic is over.
The virus is more prevalent and causing more deaths here than ever. This is despite Canberrans having the highest "fully vaccinated" rate in the country with 95 per cent of residents having had two jabs. The problem, it seems, is nobody wants to talk about the vital third, and even fourth, booster shots any more.
This is unfortunate given ATAGI and numerous independent medical experts say the third shot not only reduces your chances of catching the virus, it ensures that if you are infected, you are extremely unlikely to get seriously ill or die.
Canberra's booster rate has been stuck in the mid 70 per cent range (77.2 per cent as of Tuesday) for some time. More than one-in-five of all the ACT residents who did the right thing and had their first two shots haven't gone the extra mile. That is a dangerous decision given the benefit of the second shot starts to wane significantly after three or four months and people with underlying medical conditions need that fourth shot as winter deepens.
It is a no-brainer. And, given the flu is also taking a heavy toll on the city - including among frontline medical staff, it makes sense to get your flu shot at the same time.
Australia's slow take-up of boosters is one of the main reasons why "living with COVID" has become "dying with COVID" with more than 300 deaths a week now being reported. That's almost as many as during January's peak. While daily new cases have dropped substantially from January 14's high of 155,370, a staggering 6,684,440 Australians have caught COVID - many for the second time since then. That is more than six times the 1,262,000 people who caught COVID between March 2020 and the start of February this year.
This is having a dramatic impact on the ACT and elsewhere. More and more schools are sending students back into home learning and the outbreak of COVID in a cancer ward at the Canberra Hospital this week is a cause for concern. Cancer patients are immuno-compromised and, as such, at far greater risk than the general population.
While it's fine for health authorities to say they are investigating and that "it will probably be a long time before it's exactly clear how the outbreak occurred", we should be concerned how this happened. COVID has been a part of the landscape for well over two years and people treated in such a ward would expect safeguards would protect them.
If deaths occur as a result of this outbreak, how will the ACT government respond? And what are our strategies for easing this pressure on the ACT health system?
For many it appears as if, after more than a year during which the safety of the community, especially its most vulnerable members, was the government's number one priority, the handbrake of preventive measures has been released.
While nobody wants to see a return to lockdowns, should we be considering reinstating some safety measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing indoors or capacity limits and social distancing? Surely more could be done to limit transmissions in hospital?
Canberrans are not stupid people. They can see this situation is far from under control and have already demonstrated a willingness to accept some inconvenience to protect themselves and others.
While responsibility shifted firmly onto the individual as the year began, the realities of a pandemic winter suggest the government's hand may be needed again.
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