In order to better prepare for future health catastrophes, Australia’s center-left Labor government announced on Thursday that it will conduct an impartial investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition to other pandemic limitations, Australia closed its international borders and shut down cities, which helped keep infections and mortality much lower than those in other comparable sophisticated economies like 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.