'Squandered': British newspaper slams Australian Covid 'disaster'

·News Editor
·4-min read

A brutal newspaper editorial is using Australia as a warning to the rest of the world after it "squandered" its Covid success with a slow and inefficient vaccine rollout. 

The Financial Times newspaper in London posted the editorial on Sunday (local time), saying the lack of vaccinations administered among the population amid the NSW lockdown was a "terse reminder that success is fleeting". 

Australia has been one of the most positively touted countries when it comes to the Covid pandemic, with international borders closing early and a death toll sitting just under 1000, but the country may have lost its mantle as the Delta variant takes hold with only about nine per cent of the population fully vaccinated

Sydneysiders queue outside a vaccination centre in Sydney.
Only about nine per cent of Australia's population has been vacinated. Source: Getty

The editorial says while the UK plans to lift its remaining Covid restrictions by July 19, Canberra was too slow to act to grant Australians the same freedoms. 

Pointing to comments made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in March where he said, "It's not a race", the editorial said "he was wrong".

"Having squandered its early victory over the virus, despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, Australia now faces a costly round of restrictions as it struggles to protect a largely unimmunised population from outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant," the editorial said. 

The newspaper also highlighted Australia's hotel quarantine response, with the government long ignoring calls for purpose-built facilities as the virus spreads from overseas travellers. 

"The wider lesson for a world facing ever more virus variants, is that glacial vaccine rollouts spell disaster, no matter how rich or hermetically sealed a country may be," the editorial warned. 

Pfizer dismisses Kevin Rudd's vaccine claims

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd tweeted a screenshot of the editorial on Twitter, slamming the Australian government over the vaccine rollout.

"This editorial from London’s Financial Times is how the world now sees Australia," he said.

"No longer Morrison’s boast as 'the envy of the world'. Nope. He squandered that. He who insisted vaccination was 'not a race'. Well it bloody well was. And is."

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Mr Rudd's comments come as Pfizer dismissed claims he fast-tracked a shipment of vaccinations

The former leader had reportedly contacted the pharmaceutical company and met with its global head on June 30 and asked whether the delivery of Australia's doses could be bought forward. 

The pharmaceutical boss agreed to investigate what could be done. 

Mr Rudd then wrote Mr Morrison a letter to brief him on the discussions, with a deal announced eight days later.

Pfizer has committed to delivering more doses to Australia sooner than expected, with about one million doses to be rolled out each week from mid-July.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during the public hearing into Media diversity in Australia at the Environment and Communications References Committee.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd claims he met with the Pfizer boss on June 30.

Pfizer however downplayed the impact of the meeting with Mr Rudd, saying it was inaccurate to suggest any individual or third party had any role in the contractual agreements.

"The only two parties involved in these agreements are Pfizer and the Australian government," a company spokeswoman told AAP on Monday.

"All agreements and supply arrangements including dose planning are exclusively made with the federal government, and details of the agreement and discussions are confidential.

"All discussions on supply and procurement with the federal government are led by Pfizer representatives in Australia."

Health Minister laughs off Rudd's claims

Health Minister Greg Hunt said he chuckled when he read reports of Mr Rudd's involvement in the outcome.

"We received a letter from the individual in question ... and we said to ourselves, 'Well, no doubt that will be released when our current negotiations are announced publicly'. That is exactly what happened," he said.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton ripped into Mr Rudd over his approach to Pfizer executives and the media reports that ensued.

"I suspect it wouldn't take our greatest detective within the Queensland Police Service to identify who leaked that self-serving letter," Mr Dutton told 4BC radio.

"Kevin claims credit for many things, it used to drive his Labor colleagues crazy."

The defence minister suggested Mr Rudd was inserting himself into the public debate because he was "bored to death in retirement".

The former prime minister said his letter was consistent with Pfizer's public statements.

"Mr Rudd has not claimed responsibility for decisions by Pfizer and – as he made clear to Mr Morrison – all negotiating powers rested with the federal government," a spokesperson said.

"Mr Rudd would definitely not seek to associate himself with the Australian government's comprehensively botched vaccine procurement program."

with AAP

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