Review led by Peter Shergold finds some lockdowns and border closures were not necessary and schools should have remained open
A new report says politically driven health orders and excessive lockdowns failed to protect the old, ignored the young and abandoned disadvantaged communities.
Australia’s Covid-19 response failed the nation’s most vulnerable people and in many cases amounted to overreach, according to a new report.
But the Victorian and Queensland premiers pushed back at the report’s findings, which Daniel Andrews dismissed as “academic views”.
The report, Fault lines: an independent review into Australia’s response to Covid-19, led by former public servant Peter Shergold and released on Thursday, found some lockdowns and border closures were not necessary and schools should have remained open.
“For many of us, the story of Covid-19 will be one of inconvenience,” the private- sector funded report says. “It will be a story of cutting our own hair, struggling to exercise, missed holidays, too much takeaway … and endless Zoom meetings.
“For others, Covid-19 will be a story of trauma, isolation and terrifying uncertainty.
“It will be a story of being locked in overcrowded housing, job loss and missing out on government supports.
“It will be a story of more domestic violence, increased alcohol abuse, deteriorating mental and physical health.
“It will be a story of loss and the brutal realisation of not being able to say final goodbyes to loved ones.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said the report – which he said he had not read – was “written by a bunch of academics and that’s fine, that’s their job”.
“There was nothing academic about Covid-19,” he said. “I’m much more focused on the future rather than reading the academic views on things that happened some time ago.”
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said she had “made the decisions in the best interests of Queenslanders and it kept Queenslanders safe”.
“I stand by our world leading result when it comes to the number of lives that were lost compared to other jurisdictions and what happened around the world.”
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas – who was opposition leader when the pandemic began – said government departments should examine the review’s recommendations.
“To the extent that this review could help to inform governments about future responses, that is useful,” he said.
“Every government around the country, Liberal and Labor, were trying to deal with very difficult circumstances.”
The report says politically driven health orders and excessive lockdowns failed to protect the old, ignored the young and abandoned disadvantaged communities.
“It’s imperative that we heed these lessons and take action to ensure we’re better prepared for whatever the next health crisis is – because we know there will be another one,” Shergold said.
While school closures were probably the right decision when the virus was little understood, “it was wrong to close entire school systems, particularly once new information indicated that schools were not high-transmission environments”, the report says.
“For children and parents (particularly women), we failed to get the balance right between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education, mental health, the economy and workforce outcomes.”
Covid-19 rules were often enforced in ways that lacked fairness and compassion.
“Business people were often allowed to travel across borders whilst those wanting to visit dying loved ones or newborn family members were not afforded a similar opportunity,” the report says.
Shergold called on Australian governments to consider the report’s recommendations, which include putting the most vulnerable at the centre of future health crisis planning.
It also recommends the establishment of an Australian centre for disease control, more transparency around decision making and better collaboration across state lines.
The review was funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, the Minderoo Foundation and the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation.
The review panel included Shergold, Jillian Broadbent, Isobel Marshall and Peter Varghese.