Hamish Macdonald addressed the country’s “state of disaster” on Q and A.
Hamish Macdonald addressed the country’s “state of disaster” on Q and A.

Depressing picture of Australia’s future

Australians stranded overseas, tough restrictions on life at home, economic hardships and increased mental health issues - these are just some of the issues the country is facing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And experts have painted a grim picture for the future, with little hope of a return to life as we once knew it without a vaccine.

On Q&A Monday night experts discussed the current "state of disaster" with viewers highlighting the far-ranging concerns affecting everyone.

Les Gillings, from Brighton East in Victoria, said he was involved in clinical trials and drug development for 20 years and found tremendous optimism a vaccine for COVID-19 would become available. However he feared what would happen if such a magic bullet did not come to fruition.

"How does Victoria and Australia envisage emerging from the social and economic catastrophe emanating from lockdowns, curfews and other restrictions?," he asked the panellists.

"If this magic panacea refuses to become a reality? Are we to remain totally isolated indefinitely which would seem absurd?"

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Victorian Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching said we may have a new normal for some time in future.

"And this pandemic has been terrible. There is no question of that," she said.

"But I wonder if now is an opportunity to look at what kind of country we want? How we see ourselves in a new normal, in a coronavirus where there may be clusters that arise periodically."

Ms Kitching said she really hoped there was a vaccine but the country needed to plan for reality without one.

"But I think we don't know, we don't know how this virus is going to behave and I think we have to look at what we're going through in Victoria now, in Melbourne," she said.

"We have a situation where we eased restrictions for a few weeks and there was a sort of sigh of relief, I think, in Melbourne. And then of course we went back to stage four lockdown a week ago.

"I think we don't know how the virus is going to behave and I think that we have to plan for different contingencies."



Emergency doctor and disability advocate Dinesh Palipana said the future would be difficult for people with disabilities, chronic medical conditions and the elderly if there was no vaccine.

"There's a significant amount of risk," he said. "I guess the biggest challenge that we've seen coming from other countries is when this really, really escalates. I was reading a report from one of the doctors in Texas where they ran out of intensive care beds.

"They had to start turning people away. And he was saying they set up a committee to choose who gets intensive care beds. And they were picking the people that had the best chance of survival."

Dr Palipana said Australia did not want to be in a position where if the situation really escalated, we had to choose who lived and died.

"That's an extreme example," he said.

"But I think that's the situation that a lot of people live in fear of.

"Also just getting the disease has a fairly poor prognosis and it's a lot of risk for someone like me or anyone with a condition like this. So there's a lot of uncertainty."

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Face masks are now the norm in public and a curfew is in place. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Face masks are now the norm in public and a curfew is in place. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie


Michele O'Neil, ACTU President, said Australians were having a really tough time.

"The government has to act in a comprehensive way and act fast and think about what are all the elements of different sectors of the economy and how they can be supported," she said.

"You need to have government injecting funds, using public money for public good so we can actually see a way through this that's going to be good for workers but also for the businesses that they spend the money in, for our whole community and our economy.

"And I don't think we are getting that comprehensive response. There's no time to waste on this."

Tim Wilson, Victorian Liberal MP, said the idea the government was not doing enough was "absurd".

It comes after the Prime Minister today dashed hopes restrictions will be lifted in time for Christmas, as borders around the country remain closed.

The country faced its deadliest day with 19 lives lost to coronavirus in Victoria on Monday.

Australia's coronavirus death toll has surged from 200 to more than 300 in just nine days.





Originally published as Depressing picture of Australia's future