Australia’s response to Covid-19 was littered with mistakes that caused trauma, isolation and terrifying uncertainty, an independent review has found.
The report – provided by a panel led by Western Sydney University chancellor Peter Shergold - concluded that “significant mistakes were made” by politicians and bureaucrats” during the pandemic.
The review found that soaring domestic violence rates, increased alcohol abuse and deteriorating mental and physical health were among some of the pandemic’s worst outcomes.
It said rules were “formulated and enforced in ways that lacked fairness and compassion”, undermining trust in public institutions.
Lockdowns and border closures should have been used less, and “politics played a role” in unnecessary restrictions.
And the panel was scathing of school closures, reporting that: “It was wrong to close entire school systems, particularly once new information indicated that schools were not high-transmission environments.”
The panel reserved its harshest criticism for the decision to stop aged care residents from going to hospital when they contracted Covid. This was a “mistake that cost lives”, according to the 97-page report.
“Governments and public servants were making decisions in a fog of uncertainty,” the panel said.
“None of the panel can be confident that they would have made decisions better at the time. But looking back, we are persuaded that significant mistakes were made.”
“(For some) COVID-19 will be a story of trauma, isolation and terrifying uncertainty,” the panel said.
“It will be a story of being locked in overcrowded housing, job loss and missing out on government supports.”
Two hundred health experts, public servants, epidemiologists, unions, community groups, businesses and economists were consulted during the review that involved 3000 hours of research.