Australia to hold independent inquiry into handling of COVID pandemic


  • World
  • Thursday, 21 Sep 2023

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask crosses tram lines in the city centre during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/file photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's centre-left Labor government on Thursday said it would hold an independent inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to better prepare for future health crises.

Australia closed its international borders and locked down cities among other pandemic restrictions that helped keep infections and deaths far below levels in other comparable developed economies such as the United States and Britain.

It shifted to living with the virus in early 2022 after a majority of the population was vaccinated.

A three-member panel, which includes an epidemiologist, public service expert and economist, will conduct the inquiry, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a media conference.

"We need to examine what went right, what could be done better with a focus on the future," Albanese said. "Because the health experts and the science tells us that this pandemic may ... not likely to be the last one that occurs."

Albanese said the inquiry was of national interest, but the opposition coalition which was in power during the height of the pandemic said it did not want it to become a "witch-hunt".

The opposition also criticised Albanese's government for excluding from the inquiry state-level restrictions, such as the stop-start lockdowns by the Victoria government of Melbourne, which endured a total of 262 days in lock down, one of the longest in the world.

"If we don't learn the lessons of what happened during the course of COVID, good and bad, by every level of government, how do we expect to go into the next pandemic not understanding what had happened in the previous one," opposition leader Peter Dutton told reporters.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; editing by Miral Fahmy)

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