COVID-19 is now spreading in Western Australia—some local actions and global concerns

COVID 19 pandemic has caused a scary human health crisis of global dimension. The pandemic has already killed over 5.9 million people and there are still over 418 million confirmed cases battling infections across nations. In Australia, the total number of confirmed cases is close to 3 million with over 4800 deaths. This virus has attacked humans across continents, nations, regions, cultures, races, skin colours, religions, genders, and age groups. It has not discriminated between rich and poor and treated the so-called celebrities and common persons alike. COVID has reminded us that we all belong to one species, and we all are vulnerable. The pandemic has impacted on psychological and social well-being of human populations across the globe and caused serious mental health issues.

In Western Australia, we have been lucky as we managed to keep the infection under control up till now. However, COVID infection is now in the community and the number of locally transmitted cases is rapidly increasing. WA government’s estimates indicate that state’s outbreak would peak by the end of March with about 10,000 new COVID cases a day. Furthermore, the WA government has decided to open the state borders from 3 March 2022 and allow for safe travel into WA from interstate and overseas with vaccination and testing requirements on arrival.

As COVID is now in the community and spreading, we must take all precautions to make ourselves and others safe in the community. The WA Naturalists’ Club’s policy position is to strictly follow the latest government instructions. Mask wearing and vaccination requirements are in effect. All members, staff and visitors must wear masks in indoor settings, as per the Government requirements and subject to exemptions. The Club abides by the COVID related requirements of other agencies when using their facilities. Implementation of these requirements causes some operational disruptions and discomfort, but it is necessary for safety of our community. The Club’s COVID Management Policy is consistent with the government’s policy on COVID management in WA. In case of any ambiguity or perceived inconsistency, the government policy will prevail. These are some of our actions to manage the infection and its impact locally.

COVID pandemic has raised concerns about global preparedness to prevent and respond to COVID-like pandemics in the future. One of the learnings from COVID pandemic is the urgent need for a cohesive and globally coordinated approach to safeguarding humans and their resources from biological threats. Without a global approach, how we will cope if, and when, we have concurrent epidemics of biological threats like COVID 19 affecting humans, livestock, and food plants? It is rather ironical that global spending on arms and wars is steadily increasing, even during the pandemic years, to over $2 trillion. Redirecting even a fraction of global military expenditure will make available resources needed to enhance preparedness and safeguard our present and future generations from outbreaks of COVID-like harmful organisms.

Shashi Sharma