Australia’s senate Covid committee has called for a Royal Commission inquiry into the nation’s pandemic response.
The Senate Select Committee on Covid-19 on Thursday evening handed down its final report, finding that while Australia “fared much better than other countries” throughout the “first wave”, a failure to learn lessons as the pandemic progressed, and “significant failures” of implementation with, at times, “catastrophic consequences”, reports Xinhua news agency.
The committee, which was chaired by member of the opposition Labor Party, recommended the establishment of a Centre for Disease Control to improve Australia’s pandemic preparedness, operational response capacity, and communication across all levels of government.
It said a Royal Commission, the highest form of inquiry in Australia, should be established “to examine Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic” and that the government should open a review of its preparedness for future pandemics.
The report identified the failure to open quarantine facilities, the slow start to the vaccine rollout and handling of Covid-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities as government failures.
As at tabling, Australia has had over 4.6 million Covid-19 cases resulting in 6,462 deaths.
Approximately 30 per cent of deaths occurred in aged care facilities, residents of which were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, being just 0.7 per cent of the Australian population, according to the report.
“This is a terrible outcome for the community and is particularly tragic as some of these infections and deaths could have been avoided had the government responded more effectively to the pandemic,” it said.
The report also said that this failure to establish stand-alone quarantine facilities resulted in overseas arrival caps being imposed, which severely restricted the number of people able to return to Australia, denying thousands of citizens entry to their own country.
“The government has also failed to address the serious and dangerous vaccine misinformation promoted within the government’s own parliamentary ranks.”
In a dissenting report, government members of the committee accused the opposition Labor Party of using it as a vehicle for “partisan attacks on the government” rather than investigating “issues of concern during a rapidly evolving pandemic”.
On Friday morning, Australia reported more than 30,000 new Covid-19 cases.