Hard lessons to learn: Managing COVID-19 and preparing for future pandemics

Policies, Publications & Submissions - December 22, 2023

COVID-19 has exposed the frailties of our society. It has followed the contours of inequality in our labour market and exposed the inadequacies of our social safety net. Whether it is the insecure worker that was forced to choose between their health and their income or the essential worker who on a daily basis risked their lives just to keep the nation functioning, work was, and remains to this day, the most significant factor in a person’s experience of the pandemic.

COVID-19 remains a serious public health and work health and safety issue. Total excess mortality for the first eight months of 2023 is 6,400 more than had the pandemic not happened, with slightly more than half (+3,500) directly attributable from deaths from COVID-19. At more than twice the national road toll this remains both unacceptably high but also easily reduced with some simple workplace precautionary measures.

Now, as we approach the fourth anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 the lessons of the pandemic are clear. An understanding of work is critical to ensuring that both COVID-19, as well as future pandemics, are managed to minimise the impact on health.

This submission will focus on three key areas:

  1. Managing COVID-19 transmission in the workplace and the balance between Public Health Orders (PHOs) and a strengthened work health and safety regime
  2. Insecure work and the increased risk of transmission for those that lack basic social protections such as sick leave, and
  3. Income support for workers impacted by COVID-19.

In addition to these work-related aspects this submission will also provide recommendations to improve national coordination, sovereign manufacturing capability in relation to key medical supplies and PPE, as well as the vaccine rollout.

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