The Corona Crucible – Thurs 31st December

World 83,060,275                  USA 20,216,991                     Australia 28,402

After two months without any locally acquired cases, there were three new infections in Melbourne yesterday, with at least another three today. These cases are linked to the outbreak in Sydney. I really hope this is not the start of another wave. We have done so well here to contain this virus. The Victorian authorities are jumping on this outbreak quickly. I hope it is quick enough. There have been 10 new cases in Sydney overnight as the virus spreads.

From just one infection about a year ago, COVID-19 has spread across planet Earth infecting around 83 million people. That’s the official number, but modelling suggests the real number is at least six times as many, which means around 500 million people have been infected. The collective pain and suffering we have endured shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Health workers everywhere are under incredible stress.

Officially, there have been 20.1 million people infected in the US, 10.2 million in India, 7.6

million in Brazil, 3.1 million in Russia, 2.6 million in France, 2.4 million in the UK, 2.2 million in Turkey and 2 million in Italy. Spain has had 1.9 million cases, Germany 1.7 million, Colombia 1.6 million, Argentina 1.6 million, Mexico 1.4 million, Poland 1.2 million, Iran 1.2 million, with Ukraine, Peru and South Africa having over one million each. Australia is 99th on the list.

To date, 1.8 million people have died from COVID-19 across the globe, though that number could be much higher too.

There are a host of vaccines in development, some are being distributed already, but it will be many months if not years before people are vaccinated and we still don’t know how effective these vaccines will be over the longer term. Meanwhile, highly infectious new strains of COVID-19 are emerging.

Here in Australia we are far enough away from the 90 percent of the world’s population who live in the northern hemisphere to be able to keep case numbers low. Islands are good places to live in the midst of a pandemic. New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Taiwan, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, New Caledonia, Greenland, Solomon Islands, Samoa and many other island nations have been able to keep on top of spread of COVID.

This pandemic has exposed many flaws in our social and political systems. Some have been repaired, others still need major work and others are totally broken beyond repair.

What not to do in a pandemic? Just look to the chaotic situation in the US. By far the most devastating impact has been in the Divided States. Of the 20 million official cases, almost eight million are active. It will be another three weeks before Joe Biden is sworn in. The new administration has a mammoth job ahead. Apart from dealing with the pandemic, the new government is planning to make sweeping changes to protect the environment and deal with the effects of climate change. Not before time.

What this virus has shown us is that the world needs to work together. Here in Melbourne, a city of five million souls, we have tackled this pandemic and controlled it. We listened to the science, had good leadership and worked out how to manage the pandemic. Even though initial mistakes were made and it escaped into the community, we bought it under control. Hardly any place on Earth was able to do what we did. We need to protect this remarkable achievement.

Whether it’s a pandemic, or a global climate emergency, there are ways to manage these problems. But leadership depends on the ability of our leaders as well as their capacity to act and their underlying value system.

As well as working together, we each need to take personal responsibility for our actions. We have learned to be more resilient and self-sufficient. We have had to learn new skills and adapt to the changes all around us. Hopefully, we have learned how to be more personally accountable and responsible.

2021 will see the COVID pandemic continue. There is no sign that this global health emergency will end any time soon. And once the COVID era is behind us, even while it is still unfolding, we will have to face another global emergency. Unlike COVID, we have had decades to prepare for this one. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the climate elephant in the room.

2020 began with the horrific fires that spread across Australia. Then came COVID. It’s been a year of pain and misery, isolation and grief. But COVID has taught us that we can create a better world and save life on this planet, if we all work together.