Review: Australian COVID-19 response fails most vulnerable

A medical worker enters the Epping Gardens aged care facility in the Melbourne suburb of Epping on July 30, 2020, as the city battles fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus. (WILIAM WEST / AFP)

YANGON / SINGAPORE / HANOI / MANILA / CANBERRA / KUALA LUMPUR – Australia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic failed the country's most vulnerable people, an independent review has found.

The review, which was funded by philanthropic organizations, recently published its report, which was informed by consultations with 200 health experts, public servants, economists, businesses and epidemiologists.

It identified four areas "where we should have done better" in Australia's pandemic response, including that economic supports should have been provided fairly and equitably, and older Australians should have been better protected.

The report found Australia's most vulnerable communities were excluded from financial support measures and "bore the brunt" of the pandemic.

"For children and parents (particularly women), we failed to get the balance right between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education, mental health, the economy and workforce outcomes," it said.

"The problems in aged care were well known before the pandemic. Many of these problems have their roots in the sad reality that Australia's aged care system depersonalizes older people."

The report noted that the country's early success in response to the COVID-19 started to falter in 2021. The arrival of the Omicron variant and easing of restrictions saw cases climb to 15,318 and excess deaths rise to 152 per million people in 2021.

Cases and deaths have risen even further during 2022 in Australia, "dramatically reversing" the early competitive advantage.

It supported the federal government's move to establish an Australian Center for Disease Control and said governments got many of the "big calls right" but noted much of Australia's success in managing COVID-19 could be attributed to being able to easily close international borders.

The review made six key recommendations to improve preparedness for future, including enhancing transparency around government decisions, improving public service collaboration and modernizing how governments use data.

ALSO READ: COVID-19: New Omicron sub-variants found in India


Malaysia recorded 2,295 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Wednesday, bringing the total tally to 4,872,570, according to the health ministry.

There were four new imported cases and 2,291 local transmissions, data released by the ministry showed.

Three new deaths have been reported from the pandemic, taking the death toll to 36,429.

A woman receives a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)


Myanmar has vaccinated more than 37.3 million people for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, the Ministry of Health's data showed.

The figures comprised over 30.6 million people aged 18 and above and more than 6.6 million people aged under 18 years old, the ministry said.

The health ministry confirmed 277 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 629,653 on Wednesday.

It added that health authorities tested 13,263 people for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, and the daily positivity rate was 2.09 percent.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the country reached 19,472 on Wednesday after one new death was reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry said.

A man shops for face masks in Divisoria, a local shopping district in Manila on May 17, 2022. (JAM STA ROSA / AFP)


The Philippines reported 1,379 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, pushing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,987,316.

The Department of Health said the number of active cases dropped to 23,347, while 44 more patients died from COVID-19 complications, pushing the country's death toll to 63,625.

Metro Manila, the capital region with over 13 million people, tallied 472 new cases.

Singapore Airlines stewardesses walk past a giant lollipop candy display at Changi International Airport in Singapore on April 1, 2022, as Singapore reopened its land and air borders to travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. (ROSLOAN RAHMAN / AFP)


Singapore reported 8,752 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total tally to 2,037,947.

Of the new cases, 808 were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 7,944 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 787 were local transmissions and 21 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 7,632 local transmissions and 312 imported cases.

Three new deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday, taking the total death toll to 1,654.

READ MORE: Brunei COVID-19 cases rise for 3rd straight week

Passengers wait for transportation outside the arrival hall of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on March 15, 2022, as Vietnam announced the return of a visa exemption policy for 13 countries in an effort to kickstart its tourism sector. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)


Vietnam recorded 1,337 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up by 714 from Tuesday, according to its ministry of health.

Among the new cases, one was imported and the rest were all locally transmitted, said the health ministry.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 11,495,231. The country reported a new death from the pandemic in the southern Soc Trang province on Wednesday, bringing the total fatalities to 43,159.