Perth epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde has sparked a fierce debate after tweeting the world could have achieved Covid zero — like Western Australia — but chose not to.
"I recently went to two Christmas parties. Not a single person was wearing a mask," the University of Western Australia epidemiologist tweeted on Tuesday morning.
"And it was okay, because there’s no epidemic where I live.
"Western Australia has managed to sustain zero Covid for nearly 2 years.
"Eliminating Covid-19 was always possible," she said as she concluded the tweet.
"The world chose not to."
The tweet swiftly divided users, many of who pointed out Western Australia has had its borders shut for almost two years and is also larger in size with less dense living situations compared to other cities around the world.
"To be fair you have a population density of .89 per sq km. Which makes WA one of the least densely populated areas on planet earth," one woman replied to the tweet.
I recently went to two Christmas parties. Not a single person was wearing a mask.
And it was okay, because there’s no epidemic where I live. Western Australia has managed to sustain zero COVID for nearly 2 years.
Eliminating COVID-19 was always possible. The world chose not to.
— Dr Zoë Hyde (@DrZoeHyde) December 20, 2021
"Not always possible," another replied. "WA did very well no doubt. But Australia is an island. Big advantage."
"It’s great that’s there’s zero cases but at this time of the year it’s a little insensitive to gloat," another said.
"Not everyone has their family in the same state or country. Covid will be around for a long time."
Others agreed with her controversial stance.
"Omicron has changed the pandemic and WA needs to change plans and stay closed," one user wrote.
"Better for us to maintain our healthy Covid-free lives."
All the non-Australians engaging with this, blissfully unaware that WA's Zero Covid approach comes with preventing parents from collecting a deceased child's body, or just general contact with friends and family for two years. But I hope your dinner was nice https://t.co/p2idtaWSsL
— machine gun κυψέλη (@mathaiaus) December 21, 2021
Is Covid zero possible?
While other states in Australia and countries worldwide transitioned to living with Covid — shifting their focus to achieving high vaccination rates to minimise hospitalisations and death — WA has been focused on maintaining 'Covid zero' since the pandemic began.
In July, the Grattan Institute released a report saying Australia wouldn't be able to maintain a Covid zero strategy forever, but recommended it until 80 per cent of the eligible population were fully vaccinated.
In Western Australia 81.9 per cent of residents 16 and over have now received two doses of vaccine.
Perth is literally the most physically isolated city in the world right? https://t.co/A7jo7j4m9T
— Stefanie Kechayas (@stefanitza) December 21, 2021
“The more infectious Delta variant is making zero Covid even harder to maintain," the report read, according to The Guardian.
"Australians have supported a hard-line approach, but they are also tired and frustrated.
"On the one hand, we cannot abandon our zero Covid strategy too early and risk the calamity we have so far avoided.
I don't begrudge WA for pursuing what is likely the optimal virus strategy for the most isolated place on earth. But don't pretend it would work anywhere else vs delta or omicron when even NZ couldn't get back to zero vs delta. https://t.co/lCxhEAoUVc
— ratcoffin (@ratcoffin1) December 21, 2021
“But on the other hand, we cannot remain walled inside Fortress Australia indefinitely, cut off from the rest of the world and periodically cut off from one another.”
In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the plan for Australians to live with the virus after the Delta variant ran rampant in the eastern states.
"This cannot go on forever, this is not a sustainable way to live in this country,” Mr Morrison said during a press conference at the time.
In October, New Zealand abandoned a zero Covid strategy after an outbreak of the Delta variant spread throughout the country.
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