Tonight there are now 28 confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW. 63 cases across Australia. Two deaths.
“We do know that containment is likely to be an unlikely outcome” — NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Throughout the course of my work I’ve been able to watch every Coronavirus media conference that the Australian and New South Wales governments have held with their relevant chief medical officers and health ministers.
One thing that’s become apparent is that our chief health officers and political leaders are involved in a lot urgent meetings about the Coronavirus. NSW leaders were involved in a 2am phone hook up this his week. They’re all very busy.
The messaging from different levels of governments is inconsistent. Some of the messages are strong and clear, others are not. On Wednesday I heard one leader promise that an important media release would be issued later in the day. It was never sent.
How did the supermarket panic start in Australia? Was it sparked by a wrong message or maybe inaction by our leaders?
For the past few weeks social media has been feeding rumours about Coronavirus. One rumour that created fear for days in Fairfield was officially confirmed in a round-about way on Wednesday.
Australia needs to urgently appoint a Coronavirus Commissioner — and state-based Coronavirus Commissioners. The Commissioner’s office would act as an independent government agency working closely with the Health Minister and reporting to the Parliament of Australia.
The Coronavirus Commissioner would act in the best interests of the population by co-ordinating important public health policy.
I visualise the Coronavirus Commissioner as being a medical/health version of the NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons who successfully led the bushfire emergency. This Commissioner too would need to be strong and articulate.
The Australian Coronavirus Commissioner would free-up politicians to do what they do best (lobby for cash and resources), and also provide much needed support to each chief medical officer.