Opinion; by the Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh
Shepparton food processor SPC recently became the first Australian business to mandate COVID vaccination for all onsite staff and visitors.
Announcing the commercial decision, SPC chair Hussein Rifai said: “we honestly saw very little other options but to take this step”.
Protecting the integrity of the food supply chain – and those who work in it – was just too important.
I couldn’t agree more.
But in addition to vaccination, we should also be using rapid testing to enable Victoria to open; and to keep Victoria open.
It’s quick, it’s effective and it’s available right now.
Rapid testing has gathered a groundswell of support from public health experts as a crucial tool that should be in every state’s arsenal against the spread of COVID.
The first rapid tests were approved by the Therapeutics Goods Association in February.
Similar tests are on supermarket shelves and in school backpacks across Europe.
Rapid tests were even good enough for our best athletes at the Tokyo Olympics and world leaders at the G7 in Cornwall.
The process involves a throat and nasal swab, like the current ‘PCR’ tests, and is inexpensive (costing about $10 a pop), effective and gives a result within about 15 minutes.
Although it wouldn’t replace PCR testing, the public health experts are telling us it has huge potential to be a game-changer for managing COVID, particularly in our food supply chain where the nature of the work can make social distancing difficult.
According to UNSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, with rapid tests “you’ve got real-time results and then you could go onto the work floor knowing that you won’t place any of your mates at work at risk of COVID, and you won’t get COVID.”
The University of Melbourne’s Professor Tony Blakely has also said that rapid testing at state borders could mitigate the dangers of COVID coming into Victoria.
Statewide lockdown should be a last resort – not a first response.
But while Daniel Andrews and his Labor Ministers like to claim they’re relying on public health advice, they’re guilty of pig-headedly refusing to listen to the stream of epidemiologists who overwhelmingly support the use of rapid tests.
Victorians deserve a plan out of lockdown.
Rapid tests could be a key to getting our state back on track by supporting a proportionate response to outbreaks.
It’s good enough for the public health experts.
It’s good enough to protect the public health of Olympians and world leaders – even those from countries that are still being over-run by COVID.
So why isn’t it good enough for Victoria?