Acceptance is the final stage of grief and, after almost two years of trying to lock the virus down, Australian’s seem to have well and truly embraced their fate.
It’s wild to think we once had one of the lowest rates of transmission in the world and were looked to as a beacon for how to stem the tide of COVID. Now, the state of NSW alone, if it were taken as a country, has one of the highest rates of transmission in the world. Australia crossed 100,000 cases last week, with the true numbers expected to be far higher. It seems like we’ve well and truly given up any hope of remaining COVID free and therefore it’s understandable that people feel a certain sense of inevitability around the virus.
Jokes about getting the virus now to ‘get it over with’ or trying to time when you’ll catch it so as to avoid being isolated during crucial social plans are all over the shop, particularly as we return to work and have to start making small talk with our colleagues
However, getting COVID is no laughing matter. This is a virus you definitely want to avoid at all costs and, while it shouldn’t stop you from living your life, actively trying to go out and get it is a bad idea.
Just last week, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate spoke to Channel 9, condemning reports that people had been throwing COVID parties in the city. Yes, just like the Chicken Pox, people have apparently decided that it’s better to get it over with and purposefully catch COVID.
Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrad has said that these parties are “utterly ridiculous”.
“There is one way, the best way to get immunity to this virus, is through vaccination, not through COVID parties. They are ridiculous, so please stop them. Please stop,” he said.
Here’s why you really, really shouldn’t go to a COVID party or try and get the virus in any way.
COVID is Still a Serious Threat
There are two sides to this argument. On the one hand, you have those who have been vaccinated and want to get the virus to limit their time in isolation. Say, if it’s convenient now to block out the next two weeks while they don’t have social gatherings on or if someone close to them has it and they might as well be isolating at the same time.
This is the kind of argument influencer and former Big Brother contestant Tully Smyth made when she announced that she was moving in with her COVID positive partner.
“Chances are I already have it and by coming here and isolating, I’m less likely to give it to my housemate,” she said.
On the other side, you’ve got anti-vaxxers who want to get COVID to get “natural immunity” from the virus – an utterly bizarre claim to start with. This is the motivation suspected behind several of the COVID parties in Queensland.
Both of these perspectives ignore the fact that this is still a lethal disease. Yes, vaccines protect us. Yes, if you’re young and healthy you likely won’t suffer any complications. But you only need to look at the story of 24-year-old James Kondilios to recognise that this is not a game and that not everyone will be so lucky.
Kondilios was a former world-class powerlifter from Sydney. By all accounts, he was a highly intelligent, funny, social individual with big dreams ahead of him. He was double vaccinated and had no underlying health conditions. COVID still killed him.
Epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia told 7News that the consequences for trying to get COVID could be severe and long-lasting.
“There are a number of flaws in this ‘let’s get infected’ approach,” he said.
“For starters, there is still some Delta around, and it more readily causes severe disease.
“And even with Omicron, although most people will have a very mild illness, a few will end up severely ill, even if they are otherwise young and healthy.”
While you yourself might not get severely ill, you increase the chances of the disease spreading, even if you’re careful with your isolation. That means the risk to vulnerable people, those with chronic health conditions, and other factors could end up severely ill or even dying due to your actions. No one wants to contribute to that.
Increased COVID numbers due to people intentionally getting the virus also increase the chances of more variants emerging. It has been suggested that the Omicron variant, now accounting for more than 90% of cases in Australia, mutated in a single individual. While the chances of that happening are low, it can and does happen. By getting COVID, you’re contributing to the risk that this thing could change once again.
Getting it Once Doesn’t Mean That You Won’t Get It Again
The argument for getting COVID and ‘getting it over’ with is also deeply flawed for the other reason that COVID is not a one and done deal. Getting it now may mean that you are unlikely to get it again over the next month or so, however that immunity is not going to last forever.
COVID appears to be very good at dodging our immune systems. If you caught COVID in the initial wave, you’re not that much better protected against Delta or Omicron. Next-generation mutations aren’t recognised as well by our immune systems and so it’s not impossible that you will get the virus again and again.
Of course, data shows that these reinfections are likely to be milder, however, getting through the inconvenience of COVID once doesn’t guarantee you won’t have to again. It’s better to just avoid it entirely.