Time for cost benefit analysis of lockdown decisions – need to supercharge vaccination effort

“For too long we have heard state leaders quote “health advice” for their job and life wrecking decisions on lockdowns. The time has come for that advice to include a proper cost benefit analysis of lockdown decisions, including the impact of COVID lockdowns on general health, mental health, impacted business sectors and the general economy,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“Premiers need to stand up and advise the community of their best estimate, based on a proper analysis of earlier experiences, of how many jobs will be lost and for how long, how many people will be stood down, how many businesses will have to close temporarily and permanently, how much economic activity and wealth will be lost, how many doctors appointments will be cancelled and how many extra calls to mental health services will be made as a result of their decisions.

“Until that advice becomes more transparent and includes more than health advice, doubts will continue to grow as to whether we are on the right path and confidence will be further eroded in the decisions made by state governments.

“Nearly 18 months after we were first told of COVID we now have well over two-thirds of our national economy impacted by ongoing lockdowns with no clear end in sight. Many businesses and their employees are at breaking point with reports of stress, fatigue and mental health impacts becoming more common. The simple reality is that we can’t keep going on like this.

“The Prime Minister’s four phase pathway out of COVID is well thought through but doubts are growing by the day as to whether there is any taste from the states to follow through with the plan.

“We need the vaccine roll-out to be supercharged with clearly articulated rewards for accepted and achievable targets such as the end to lockdowns and border closures. Employers stand ready to use their workplaces as vaccination sites for their employees, their families and community to help speed up that process. If it takes “vaccination vans” to turn up at workplaces as occurs in other countries such as Canada, that too would be supported.

“NSW’s decision to shut construction when risks are extremely minimal in an industry that is leading the way in COVID safe practices surely cannot be justified by any data or proper risk assessment. South Australia is now following suit with a construction shutdown as part of a 7-day state-wide lockdown that looks like a knee-jerk response.

“The risk now is that the pressure will come on Victoria to have its own construction shutdown. If that happens, industry should demand to see all the reasoning, cost benefit analysis, data and health advice behind that decision.

“The lack of transparency and inconsistency in decision making comes with its own cost. It takes the rug out from under plans to move towards COVID-normal and destroys any momentum that has been built up. Planning for business operations is becoming more difficult by the day meaning recovery from these decisions will take months rather than weeks.

“Business and the jobs, wealth and well-being they create rely on certainty that governments are supportive of creating the conditions to achieve this. As ad-hoc lockdowns and restrictions continue, that certainty diminishes by the day,” Mr Willox said.

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