NO-ONE could ask more of the medical fraternity after a year in which they have battled a pandemic the likes of which few alive have ever seen. Yet it is precisely that extra effort the region's GPs are offering with calls to set up a mega hub in the Hunter.
The federal government expects international travel to remain off the boards until at least this point next year, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reportedly warned ministers that the threat is greater now than it was a year ago.
It is difficult to disagree. India's plight remains a horror story, particularly to the eyes of Australians in areas like the Hunter where lockdowns and restrictions have almost become abstract concepts once again, albeit the type that can quickly shake confidence in holiday plans.
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The fragility of such thinking is clear south of Swansea, where the Central Coast has joined the rest of greater Sydney in a fresh round of restrictions as contact tracers chase the origins of two recent cases. Victorians likely breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when they recorded no new cases a day after a man who quarantined in South Australia tested positive after returning to his home on the outskirts of Melbourne.
In business the adage is that if you are standing still, you are falling behind. That is perhaps why Hunter GPs are so eager to put a mega hub in the region and keep taking the fight to the virus that has tranformed lives and livelihoods over the past year.
"We feel very strongly that a location like the McDonald Jones stadium would be ideal for rolling out large numbers because the current system is slow and probably too slow to be enabling the economy and the population workforce to open up at the rate of that we need it to - it's clearly less than ideal," Hunter GP Association spokeswoman Fiona Van Leeuwen said.
In both Sydney and Melbourne, there have been extensive efforts to limit the potential for these cases to billow into something more dangerous. Yet both show that much of Australia's success is contingent on a degree of luck until our population achieves a herd immunity that can hinder the spread of COVID-19 as effectively as social distancing and other public health mandates.
The speed of the vaccine rollout, even before the setback that led to a shift towards Pfizer's vaccine for those under the age of 50, has been a source of frustration for Australians watching millions inoculated every day in the US and elsewhere. For economic reasons among many others, it is crucial that Australia not fall behind the rest of the world in the race to re-open safely. Tourism and hospitality are among many other sectors cheering the nation towards that goal. It is early days, but the Sydney hub appears a success story. As the state's second city, Newcastle should be the next cab off the rank. Our doctors deserve leaders who go the extra mile too.
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