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Citizens’ agenda: How can we get out of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Candidates for Hammond at the 2022 state election respond to voters' concerns about the government's COVID-19 response.
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The woman on the other end of the video call just wants to know where it will all end.
For two years now, we’ve been asked to mask up, get vaccinated and keep 1.5 metres apart to help with the fight against COVID-19.
But as the pandemic rolls on, she and many other Murraylands residents want to know what our exit plan is.
She worried that it was impossible to have a rational debate about anti-COVID measures, as anyone who questioned the government line was quickly labelled an anti-vaxxer.
That’s why she – and everyone else who raised the issue in Murray Bridge News’ recent citizens’ agenda survey – didn’t want to be identified in this story.
She had been vaccinated early on, but she still wondered: would we really have to keep getting booster shots every few months until a longer-lasting solution was found?
“How about we do preventative health measures on obesity, on type two diabetes, on heart issues – (things) that we know contribute to adverse outcomes for COVID patients?” she asked.
“Those thoughtful conversations are not occurring.”
Her husband was more openly sceptical, admitting he had spent “hundreds of hours” researching alternative theories about the coronavirus.
“I went down the proverbial rabbit hole,” he said.
“I’m not the sort of person who would normally do this.”
But something didn’t feel right, he said, and he couldn’t find any information to satisfy his doubts.
The Tungkillo couple are not the only locals who feel frustrated.
COVID-19, and the state government’s response to it, will be the number-one issue at next month’s state election, according to our citizens’ agenda survey.
Respondants had mixed, but strong, opinions about which was the bigger problem: the virus, or the restrictions introduced to limit its spread.
One expressed plain fear about COVID transmission: “I’m compromised and scared”.
Another complained that “we have two classes of people – some can’t even visit the zoo”.
Finding solutions will have to be a top priority for the Murraylands’ next representative in state Parliament.
So: what do each of the candidates for Hammond have to say about the issue?
If elected, how would you suggest South Australia can get out of the pandemic, and how would you address people’s concerns about vaccines and activity restrictions?
Tim White (Greens)
Murray Bridge News has sought comment from Mr White.
Tonya Scott (One Nation)
If elected, I’ll be pushing for an immediate end to all vaccine mandates and any remaining restrictions on the South Australian public.
COVID-19 is here to stay, and we need to live with it.
Ongoing mandates and restrictions are not “living with it”.
One Nation is also calling for a Royal Commission on the management of the pandemic by commonwealth, state and territory governments.
Airlie Keen (independent)
South Australians have adapted incredibly well to changing COVID rules, principally to keep themselves, loved ones and our community safe.
I believe the vaccination program along with other measures, such as mask-wearing, have kept us safe.
Early vaccine targets were in the order of 75 per cent, yet we have achieved 91% in SA according to the federal Department of Health, although the vaccination rate locally is less.
Many can relate to hesitancy around vaccines, and the fundamental right of an individual to choose is acknowledged.
With a new protein-based vaccine now available, it is possible that more people will roll up their sleeves.
We have heard the messaging from government that restrictions will not be in place for one day longer than necessary.
If I am elected on March 19, I will hold the government to account to ensure that, as soon as safe to do so, restrictions on businesses and individuals are lifted.
John Illingworth (National)
I support freedom of choice and believe that labelling people is not helpful in the vaccinated/unvaccinated discussion.
Vaccinated people are not necessarily pro-vax; let’s face it, many people had to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
People who are unvaccinated may have underlying health issues or concerns about the potential risks associated with current vaccines, without being anti-vax.
The real issue for me is social responsibility.
Whether you are vaccinated or not, you can still catch and spread the virus.
Wearing a mask in shopping centres and staying home if you are unwell are socially responsible things to do.
A person’s vaccination status is not a reliable indicator of whether they are responsible or not.
The highest risk of spreading the virus is in large population centres, such as Adelaide.
Hammond has a lower population density and, therefore, a lower risk.
Restrictions can, and should, start to be rolled back.
Belinda Owens (Labor)
Murray Bridge News has sought comment from Ms Owens.
Cameron Lock (Family First)
I am all about choice, not coercion.
If individuals feel a vaccine is right for them and their family, I have no issue with that.
If individuals feel a mask offers them a sense of protection, wear one.
If you listen to government health leaders, COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Already we are seeing many other countries reducing, and even eliminating, all restrictions, including vaccine mandates.
It will now be about living with the virus, as we have done with others.
Personal responsibility should be encouraged, such as correct hygiene measures, staying home while unwell and trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s not forget, one of the main reasons the restrictions and mandates were put in place was due to the health system not being able to cope.
I am greatly in favour of increasing expenditure on health, including aged care, to create a more robust health system.
Adrian Pederick (Liberal)
In regard to COVID-19, the Marshall Liberal government is responding to keep South Australians safe and our economy strong.
We’ve strengthened our health system, flexed-up our workforce and have delivered further financial support to businesses.
Some of SA’s pandemic control measures have now been eased, thanks to the Marshall Liberal government’s quick and decisive response to the global omicron outbreak, and these restrictions will continue to ease over the coming weeks and months.
The easing of restrictions means we can get more people through the doors of our businesses and create more jobs while also protecting the health of South Australians.
Vaccination remains the way out of this pandemic.
Getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Meet the candidates for Hammond
Murray Bridge News will host a public forum with the candidates for Hammond at the Bridgeport Hotel on the evening of Wednesday, March 16.
Book your free ticket: www.eventbrite.com.au.
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