Australians have every reason to feel let down by federal, state and territory leaders this week. At a time when the risk of catching COVID-19 has never been greater, testing and contact tracing systems are buckling under the strain and there are fears the health system will not be able to cope with rising hospitalisations, many federal ministers, premiers and chief ministers have been missing in action.
It took until Wednesday morning, after new case numbers in NSW had hit 11,201, for the Prime Minister to announce a snap national cabinet meeting for Thursday. He also pledged financial assistance for state and territory governments now engaged in a desperate scramble for millions of rapid antigen tests at a time when international demand for them has never been greater.
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Mr Morrison had been running silent and running deep since Christmas Eve, when he had paid special tribute to the "many selfless Australians ... out there caring for others this Christmas, working and volunteering to keep Australians safe and showing their fellow Australians that they matter, that they are valued and that they are cared for".
On the day he went off the air, NSW had just reported 5612 new cases. Since then, that has more than doubled.
Mr Morrison is not the only leader who has been uncharacteristically silent at a time when millions of people have been left confused by what appears to be a seismic shift in the way in which many jurisdictions - especially NSW and the ACT - are "managing" the pandemic.
After almost two years of being told to get tested at the slightest sign of a sniffle, or if they have been at an exposure site, people who would previously have been deemed casual contacts in NSW are being told not to get tested unless they are symptomatic or have been contacted by the authorities.
"Please only get a PCR test if you are required to do so," NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who had left much of the heavy lifting over the Christmas period to his obviously exhausted Health Minister, said on Tuesday. This is in line with major changes to the way the ACT government classifies exposure sites.
That is highly confusing for a community that has been very compliant when it comes to testing and self-isolation, and which knows many Omicron cases in the double-vaccinated are asymptomatic.
Meanwhile, Tasmania's Public Health contact tracing team also announced this week that it would be undertaking a "lighter touch" in regard to contact tracing because of the Omicron strain's reduced severity.
Do the changes in NSW - and indeed, here in Tasmania - simply reflect that the situation is out of control and authorities are literally fighting a rear guard action?
Or is it based on new information about Omicron that may confirm the new variant poses a significantly lower risk to the community? We just don't know.
People will have a lot more confidence in dramatic changes in public health policy if the reasoning behind them is clearly explained. As it is, millions of Australians are finding it almost impossible to keep up with what is going on. Clear and consistent messaging from all levels of government has never been more important during this crisis than it is right now.
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