Thursday, 5 August 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No. 2) Bill 2021; In Committee
I thank Senator Canavan. I'm not aware of modelling that attributes a cost per life lost or life saved in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia to date. As indicated before, there are incredible estimates that around 30,000 lives have been saved as a result of the approach that Australia has taken in successfully suppressing the spread of COVID relative to many other countries in the world.
I note that loss of life is not the only health impact of COVID-19. There are studies indicating longer term or ongoing health impacts for people, particularly those who have had more serious cases of COVID-19. That would add to the associated economic cost. I also note that various studies have been undertaken indicating that, in parts of the world where COVID-19 has been allowed to spread without government restrictions or the like in place, there has still been a very significant economic cost as individuals have undertaken behavioural change due to the heightened risk of COVID-19 and the threat and spread they've seen in their communities. So it shouldn't be assumed—and I know that you wouldn't, Senator Canavan—that it is the path of government restrictions imposing economic cost or no restrictions and, therefore, everything is as it would have been had COVID not existed. There are still associated costs beyond the loss of life accrued due to the spread of COVID because of those other health impacts and the behavioural changes.
In terms of comparisons of the severe health impacts and loss of life from the current spread of the delta strain in New South Wales and the Victorian outbreak of last year, it may be a little early to be able to draw accurate comparisons in that regard. I note though that the Victorian outbreak saw COVID-19 spread to aged-care facilities and resulted in significant and tragic loss of life in some of those facilities. Despite the fact that there have been some cases associated with aged-care facilities in the New South Wales outbreak to date, we're not seeing a similar pattern occur. That would seem to back international studies showing the effectiveness and efficacy of the vaccination that has occurred in those residential aged-care facilities. Vaccination appears to be providing protection against loss of life there and more generally, particularly across senior Australians. Some 80 per cent of those over the age of 70 have already had their first vaccination.