Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has compared Western Australia’s (WA) handling of the CCP virus pandemic and border closures to the restrictive measures of North Korea, according to The West Australian.
Joyce, who has previously called for states’ to learn to live with the virus, lambasted WA Premier Mark McGowan’s zero-COVID policy and for refusing to provide a hard deadline when the border would reopen to New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria—with McGowan instead saying it would happen a “couple of months” after WA reached “between 80 and 90 percent” vaccinated.
“Ultimately, unless you are going to really turn yourself into a hermit kingdom like we’ll have North Korea and a kind of another hermit kingdom on the west coast of Australia, then COVID is going to arrive,” Joyce reportedly said.
“It’s everywhere else in the world. It’s how you manage it. It would be better for [McGowan] to get his health system into place so that he can manage it,” Joyce said.
WA is currently experiencing a severe healthcare staff shortage, with The West Australian reporting that the Royal Perth Hospital had experienced 1541 shift deficits in just two weeks, 327 of which were unable to be covered.
It is currently unclear how McGowan plans to handle the crisis, particularly given the further loss of hundreds of staff who will quit after the WA government ordered health workers to get their first jab by Nov. 1.
“What’s McGowan going to do next? Get his own air force? Have his own army?” Joyce said. “Maybe he can develop his own currency … It’s kind of ridiculous. This is starting to smell like arrogance and not logic.”
However, McGowan pushed back at Joyce.
“I’m getting pretty tired of the tacky, cheap attacks on WA,” McGowan said in a Facebook post. “We don’t live in a cave, we’re not North Korea, and anyone paying any attention at all would appreciate the remarkable quality of life we’re able to enjoy here.”
“Barnaby Joyce doesn’t have the experience of managing and dealing with COVID and is an embarrassment to the Australian Parliament,” McGowan said. “We won’t be taking his advice.”
McGowan has worked to rapidly shut down parts of WA’s capital, Perth, on three occasions this year after recording a combined six cases of community transmission.
While the snap lockdowns have been criticised as an overreaction, McGowan previously defended the state’s directives, with WA fairing better than most other states after experiencing only 12 days of lockdown this year—compared to the several-month-long lockdowns seen in NSW and Victoria.
“Our position is clear—vaccination is our way out of this pandemic. We’ll ease our border controls with COVID-infected States when it’s safe to do so and based on health advice.”
However, McGowan had previously gone against federal health directives, saying lockdowns may continue even after 80 percent of the population becomes vaccinated.
“If we have 80 percent vaccination, we still have 20 percent of eligible people (in Western Australia) unvaccinated,” McGowan previously stated. “That’s 400,000 people (in Western Australia) … Some of them may well be very vulnerable.”
But the concept of a zero-COVID policy has been questioned internationally, including by Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, Jay Bhattacharya, at Stanford University.
“The idea that we can protect ourselves from COVID forever is just false,” Jay Bhattacharya previously told The Epoch Times. “The vaccine does not stop disease spread after a certain number of months.”
“We can try to restructure our societies essentially around the prevention of a single infectious disease forever,” Bhattacharya said. “Or we can live our lives relatively normally, using the technologies we have to protect the vulnerable. Those essentially are the two broad choices we face as a society.”