The heavy weight of freedom hits home on two fronts

Major Tim Glover, part of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment ready combat team at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Picture: Supplied
Major Tim Glover, part of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment ready combat team at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Picture: Supplied

Australia is under the heavy burden of two global events which, at their cores, are the same basic quest for freedom.

There is the stumbling race towards Covid-normal - or Covid-zero or getting out of the cinematically-depicted Croods cave - and starkly, there is the deadly, gut-wrenching scenes in Afghanistan as people desperately try to flee the Taliban.

People want out, in both scenarios. When do they want it? Now.

Sadly, the door has closed for remaining people in Afghanistan for whom Australia has obligations. With Islamic State claiming responsibility for twin attacks at Kabul airport that killed more than 70 people, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia's mission that had rescued some 4100 people has come to an end.

Mr Morrison paid tribute to the 13 US military personnel among the dead, saying they had a mission to "protect lives, to save lives, but lost their own in providing a pathway to freedom for others".

Amid the confusion, the government has been unable to confirm whether or not any Australians or visa holders were injured or killed in the attack.

Those left behind await their fate.

Back home, it is a virus randomly killing people, disrupting business and stopping children from going to school.

We all want to find an exit to this pandemic life.

Patience for many wore thin a year ago. It is lockdown number six in Victoria, there seems no end in sight in New South Wales and the ACT is at a precarious point with 21 new infections and more than a handful of those cases infectious in the community.

Individuals and families are doing it tough. Children and parents are being separated amid family-wide Covid infections. Others are risking their lives and others around them by protesting in the name of freedom; ultimately doing an act that will likely lengthen lockdowns.

There are real questions about how Australia's much-vaunted health system is coping and there is desperate concern for Australia's most vulnerable people being put at terrible risk.

Meanwhile, in one of the states lagging in the vaccination race, Queensland, dancing is allowed again after the state recorded no local cases.

But each Covid win, as much as we can enjoy them, seems fragile.

We are told, and it is intuitive, the only way out of this is vaccination. But the nation is still trying to vaccinate the most needy.

The first Covid vaccinations are just being opened up for our vulnerable children. All Australian children aged 12 to 15 will be eligible for Pfizer jabs from next month.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the hope is Australia's "staged, careful" reopening plan, backed by Doherty Institute modelling and agreed to by national cabinet, which has key stages at 70 and 80 per cent of the population (over 16 years) fully vaccinated will work.

How far to go? He says 3 million Australians need to get vaccinated to get to 70 per cent and 5 million are required to get to 80 per cent. With Delta out in the wild, there have been more than 1.8 million vaccinations in the past week.

"We can see that these goals are attainable," Mr Hunt said.

The Morrison government wants to give hope, but it can't give too much. There won't be any Australian Covid freedom day. No special day or rush to boundless abandonment is being promised. Targeted lockdowns, social distancing, booster shots perhaps once a year are all part of our future.

We are learning to live with isolation, the fear of contagion and doing without.

With the repression of attempted suppression, have Covidrestrictions changed our way of seeing freedom?

If not, surely the fall of Afghanistan will.

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This story The heavy weight of freedom hits home on two fronts first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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