Community panic over coronavirus is being fuelled by politicians milking the crisis and management should be left to health professionals, experts say.
Community panic over coronavirus is being fuelled by politicians milking the crisis and management should be left to health professionals, experts say.

Politicians fuelling panic ‘to look like leaders’

Exclusive: Politicians need to leave the management of the coronavirus to experts and stop making statements that are panicking the community, a leading public health expert said.

Professor Paul Van Buynder - a public health expert who worked at the UK Centre for Disease Control, as a public health physician on the Gold Coast and formerly headed the Immunisation Coalition - said public health experts should be running commentary and managing coronavirus.

Instead we had politicians trying to leverage the crisis to make themselves "look like strong leaders" and making out coronavirus was "the Black Plague", he said.

This had driven panic-buying and unnecessary queues for virus testing, he said.

Australian Medical Association spokesman Dr Chris Moy has joined Professor Buynder in calls for a National Centre for Disease Control to be set up to manage the coronavirus pandemic in Australia.

Public health experts Professor Paul Van Buynder. Picture: Stewart Allen
Public health experts Professor Paul Van Buynder. Picture: Stewart Allen

The US, UK and Europe have such bodies which are permanently staffed by infectious disease experts who plan for pandemics.

Such a body would have had signs about infection control procedures, recorded messages for GPs ready to send out when a pandemic broke out.

Instead, in Australia we had inconsistent and often unhelpful messaging from multiple bodies, they said.

While Australia had done well managing the outbreak so far, the lack of a single national voice of expertise had led to inconsistent management and confusion, Dr Moy said.

The comments come after the Chief Medical Officer was forced to correct Health Minister Greg Hunt who drove a spike in the number of people presenting for coronavirus testing when he said at the weekend, "if in doubt, get yourself tested".

 

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture: AAP
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Picture: AAP