So, you haven’t died from COVID-19, committed suicide from too much time at home, or become an alcoholic because of unemployment or the trashing of your education and career. Presumably, since you are reading this, you have also not been rendered insane by the relentless nagging about social distancing. So far so good.
But there is still time. I’d love to think we will emerge from this within a few months, leaner, wiser and with endless opportunities, but sadly the misery looks set to continue.
Irrespective of whether the virus is eliminated, we have virtually no international tourists (down from 8.5 million in 2018), almost no international students (from 800,000) and close to zero immigrants (from net 200,000). Not only that, many of the countries with which we trade have similarly closed their borders and shut down their economies. Until something resembling regular trade and travel with the rest of the world returns, we can’t even begin to think about a return to normality.
How long that takes is very dependent on whether and when there is a vaccine. Given the massive effort underway, it’s likely there will be one eventually, but we must be realistic – there has never been a coronavirus vaccine before. Testing for safety and efficacy will take time and the challenge of producing and distributing billions of doses is mindboggling.
With no vaccine, or if it takes years to develop, our only way out is via herd immunity. This requires at least 70 percent of us to catch the virus and develop antibodies naturally. Given the panic that currently occurs with every case, that won’t happen any time soon.
Of course, some are happy to remain sheltered within our borders, congratulating themselves on their ability to live relatively normally. Those with secure incomes love to debate whether working from home is the new normal and if domestic tourism can substitute for the lack of international tourists. They grumble as house prices decline but reject any suggestion that lack of immigration is the cause.
"I’d love to think we will emerge from this within a few months, leaner, wiser and with endless opportunities, but sadly the misery looks set to continue."
It is getting ugly in the economy’s productive sector, though. Construction is in freefall while mining is suffering from the worldwide downturn. Agriculture has plenty to sell but a lack of transport limits its ability to export. In fact, the only real growth is in government debt as money is tossed around in an effort to stimulate the economy.
Those paying the highest price for all this are the young and unskilled, whose jobs are the first to go and the last to return. The people concerned about the brutal behaviour of American police or toppling statues are among them, particularly as unemployment benefits revert to normal from October.
Is there anything to look forward to? Well yes: with summer coming, virus transmission is far lower. And if we catch the disease our chances of survival are excellent. What’s more, in the short term, an effective cure is probably more likely than
And there is an election in America in November, which will give those who regard Trump as the embodiment of everything they hate an ideal opportunity to project all their disappointments, frustrations and inadequacies onto him. I don’t expect that to result in him losing, but the process will be cathartic, and a welcome distraction from other obsessions.
There is also an election due in Australia by mid-2022. If my pessimism proves accurate and we are still in this government-caused mess, perhaps enough voters will conclude the other mob couldn’t be any worse. Yet another reason to become an alcoholic, or go insane.
David Leyonhjelm is a former senator for the Liberal Democrats.
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