Exhausted by 2020? Here are 5 ways to recover and feel more rested throughout 2021



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Peter A. Heslin, UNSW

For most of us, 2020 was an exhausting year. The COVID-19 pandemic heralded draining physical health concerns, social isolation, job dislocation, uncertainty about the future and related mental health issues.

Although some of us have enjoyed changes such as less commuting, for many the pandemic added extra punch to the main source of stress – engaging in or searching for work.

Here’s what theory and research tells us about how to feel more rested and alive in 2021.

Recovery activity v experience

Recovery is the process of reversing the adverse impacts of stress. Leading recovery researchers Sabine Sonnentag and Charlotte Fritz have highlighted the important distinction between recovery activities (what you do during leisure time) and
recovery experiences (what you need to experience during and after those activities to truly recover).

Recovery activities can be passive (such as watching TV, lying on a beach, reading, internet browsing or listening to music) or active (walking, running, playing sport, dancing, swimming, hobbies, spiritual practice, developing a skill, creating something, learning a language and so on).

How well these activities reduce your stress depends on the extent to which they provide you with five types of recovery experiences:

  • psychological detachment: fully disconnecting during non-work time from work-related tasks or even thinking about work issues

  • relaxation: being free of tension and anxiety

  • mastery: challenging situations that provide a sense of progress and achievement (such as being in learning mode to develop a new skill)

  • control: deciding yourself about what to do and when and how to do it

  • enjoyment: the state or process of deriving pleasure from seeing, hearing or doing something.

Of these, psychological detachment is the most potent, according to a 2017 meta-analysis of 54 psychological studies involving more than 26,000 participants.

Benefits of mentally disengaging from work include reduced fatigue and enhanced well-being. On the other hand, inadequate psychological detachment leads to negative thoughts about work, exhaustion, physical discomfort, and negative emotions both at bedtime and during the next morning.

Here are five tips, drawn from the research, to feel more rested and alive.

1. Follow the evidence

There are mixed findings regarding the recovery value of passive, low-effort activities such as watching TV or reading a novel.

More promising are social activities, avoiding work-related smartphone use after work, as well as engaging in “receptive” leisure activities (such as attending a concert, game or cultural event) and “creative” leisure activities (designing and making something or expressing yourself in a creative way).

Spending time in “green” environments (parks, bushland, hills) is restorative, particularly when these are natural rather than urban settings. “Blue” environments (the coast, rivers, lakes) are also highly restorative.

Time spent in natural green spaces is more restorative than in urban settings.
Shutterstock

Even short lunchtime walks and relaxation exercises lead to feeling more recovered during the afternoon.

Two of the surest ways to recover are to engage in physical exercise and get plenty of quality sleep.

2. Assess your ‘boundary management style’

Your boundary management style is the extent to which you integrate or separate your work and life beyond work. Work-life researcher Ellen Kossek has created a survey (it takes about five minutes) to help assess your style and provide suggestions for improvement.

The following table developed by Kossek shows physical, mental and social strategies to manage boundaries and separate your work and life beyond work.



CC BY-SA

3. Cultivate your identity beyond work

Many of us define ourselves in terms of our profession (“I’m an engineer”), employer (“I work at …”) and perhaps our performance (“I’m a top performer”).

We may also have many other identities related to, for instance, (“I’m a parent”), religion (“I’m a Catholic”), interests (“I’m a guitarist”), activities (“I’m a jogger”) or learning aspirations (“I’m learning Portuguese”).

Dan Caprar and Ben Walker suggest two useful ways to prevent being overly invested in work identity.

First, reorganise your physical space to reduce visual reminders of your work-related identities (e.g. your laptop, professional books, performance awards) and replace them with reminders of your other identities.

Second, do some “identity work” and “identity play”, reflecting on the identities you cherish and experimenting with potential new identities.




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Here’s why you’re checking work emails on holidays (and how to stop)


4. Make time for better recovery experiences

Document what you do when not working. Ask yourself how much these activities enable you to truly experience psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, control and enjoyment.

Then experiment with alternative activities that might provide richer recovery experiences. This will typically require less time on things such as news media (especially pandemic updates and doomscrolling), TV, social media, online shopping or video games, gambling, pornography, alcohol or illicit drugs to recover.

Couple in bed looking at smartphones.
Passive leisure activities are less likely to provide the five key recovery experiences of psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, control and enjoyment.
Shutterstock

You will make it easier to give up activities with minimal recovery value if you supplant them with more rejuvenating alternatives you enjoy.




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5. Form new habits

Habits are behaviours we automatically repeat in certain situations. Often we fail to develop better habits by being too ambitious. The “tiny habits” approach suggests thinking smaller, with “ABC recipes” that identify:

  • anchor moments, when you will enact your intended behaviour

  • behaviours you will undertake during those moments

  • celebration to create a positive feeling that helps this behaviour become a habit.

Examples of applying this approach are:

  • After I eat lunch, I will walk for at least ten minutes (ideally somewhere green). I will celebrate by enjoying what I see along the way.

  • After I finish work, I will engage in 30 minutes of exercise before dinner. I will celebrate by raising my arms in a V shape and saying “Victory!”

  • After 8.30pm I will not look at email or think about work. I will celebrate by reminding myself I deserve to switch off.

Perhaps the most essential ingredient for building better recovery habits is to steer away from feeling burdened by ideas about what you “should” do to recover. Enjoy the process of experimenting with different recovery activities that, given all your work and life commitments, seem most promising, viable and fun.The Conversation

Peter A. Heslin, Professor of Management and Scientia Education Fellow, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to outsmart your COVID-19 fears and boost your mood in 2021



It’s all about emotion.
Charles Postiaux/Unsplash, CC BY-ND

Laurel Mellin, University of California, San Francisco

After a year of toxic stress ignited by so much fear and uncertainty, now is a good time to reset, pay attention to your mental health and develop some healthy ways to manage the pressures going forward.

Brain science has led to some drug-free techniques that you can put to use right now.

I am health psychologist who developed a method that harnesses our rip-roaring emotions to rapidly switch off stress and activate positive emotions instead. This technique from emotional brain training is not perfect for everyone, but it can help many people break free of stress when they get stuck on negative thoughts.

Why the stress response is so hard to turn off

Three key things make it hard to turn off stress-activated negative emotions:

  • First, our genes make us worrywarts. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived by assuming every rustle in the grasses was a lurking hungry lion, not harmless birds hunting for seeds. We’re essentially programmed to be hyperaware of threats, and our brains rapidly launch stress chemicals and negative emotions in response.

  • Second, the chemical cascade of stress hormones in the brain associated with negative emotions impairs cognitive flexibility, goal-directed behavior and self-control.

  • Third, our tendency to avoid dealing with negative emotions puts people in a perpetual cycle of ignoring unpleasant feelings, which amplifies stress and the risk of emotional health problems.

Brain illustration
Thought vs. emotion in the brain.
Laurel Mellin, CC BY-ND

Traditional approaches for coping with stress were based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on modifying patterns of thinking and behavior. It was developed before our modern understanding of stress overload.

Researchers at New York University discovered a paradox: Although cognitive methods were effective in low-stress situations, they were less effective when dealing with the high stress of modern life.

Emotional brain training works with these high-stress emotions in an effort to tame them, releasing negative emotions as the first of two steps in preventing stress overload.

Step 1: Release negative emotions

The only negative emotion in the brain that supports taking action rather than avoidance and passivity is anger.

Studies have shown that the suppression of anger is associated with depression and that suppressing anger doesn’t reduce the emotion. Healthy release of anger instead has been found to reduce other stress-related health risks.

Our technique is to switch off stress overload by using a controlled burst of anger to help the brain exert better emotional control and allow emotions to flow rather than become chronic and toxic. After that first short burst, other feelings can flow, starting with sadness to grieve the loss of safety, then fear and regret, or what we would do differently next time.

You can talk yourself through the stages. To experiment with the process, use these simple phrases to express the negative feelings and release your stress: “I feel angry that …”; “I feel sad that …”; “I feel afraid that …”; and “I feel guilty that …”

Step 2. Express positive emotions

After releasing negative emotions, positive emotions can naturally arise. Express these feelings using the same approach: “I feel grateful that …”; “I feel happy that …”; “I feel secure that …”; and “I feel proud that …”

Your mindset can quickly change, a phenomenon that has many potential explanations. One explanation is that in positive states, your brain’s neural circuits that store memories from when you were in the same positive state in the past can be spontaneously activated. Another is that the switch from negative to positive emotions quiets your sympathetic nervous system – which triggers the fight-or-flight response – and activates the parasympathetic system, which acts more like a brake on strong emotions.

Here’s what the whole stress relief process might look like like for me right now:

  • I feel angry that we’re all isolated and I can’t see my new grandson Henry.

  • I hate it that everything is so messed up! I HATE THAT!!!

  • I feel sad that I am alone right now.

  • I feel afraid that this will never end.

  • I feel guilty that I am complaining! I am lucky to be alive and have shelter and love in my life.

Then the positive:

  • I feel grateful that my daughter-in-law sends me photos of Henry.

  • I feel happy that my husband and I laughed together this morning.

  • I feel secure that this will eventually pass.

  • I feel proud that I am doing the best I can to cope.

After a daunting year, and with more challenges ahead in 2021, upgrading your approach to emotions can be a drug-free mood booster. Our COVID-19 fears need not consume us. We can outsmart the brain’s fear response and find moments that sparkle with promise.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Laurel Mellin, Associate Professor Emeritus of Family & Community Medicine and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China enters 2021 a stronger, more influential power — and Australia may feel the squeeze even more



Kin Cheung/AP

James Laurenceson, University of Technology Sydney

Great power competition in the Asia-Pacific region has been building for years. But COVID-19 has turbo-charged the shifts taking place and China is finishing 2020 in a significantly stronger position compared with the US than when the year started.

Meanwhile, Canberra’s relations with Beijing continue to deteriorate and there’s little reason to be optimistic that a sudden, positive turnaround will be seen in 2021.

As competition rather than cooperation has become the dominant frame through which both Beijing and Washington view their bilateral relationship, each is increasingly sensitive to evidence that other countries in the Asia-Pacific region are supporting their opponent.

The fundamental driver of China’s hostility towards Australia in 2020 stems from its assessment that Australia’s leaders have reneged on earlier commitments to never direct the country’s security alliance with the US against China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has appealed for Australia and other middle and smaller powers to be granted “greater latitude” in how they manoeuvre between the US and China in the future.

But the University of Sydney’s James Curran cautions against unrealistic expectations:

Great powers simply don’t dole out strategic space to others.

China’s power on an upwards trajectory

At the end of 2019, China’s GDP stood at US$14.3 trillion. This was two-thirds that of the US GDP of $21.3 trillion.

The fallout from COVID-19 has accelerated the trend in China’s favour. The International Monetary Fund’s latest growth forecasts suggest China’s economy will jump from two-thirds to three-quarters the size of the US by the end of 2021.

And when cost differences are accounted for and the two economies are measured in terms of their respective purchasing power, China’s GDP is actually already 10% larger than the US.

Retail sales grew by 5% in China in November, compared to the same month last year, as the country’s economy continues its strong recovery.
Yang Jianzheng/AP

According to the Lowy Institute’s “Asia Power Index”, which tracks power in the economic, military, diplomatic and cultural domains, the US still comes out on top, but its lead over China has been cut in half since 2018. This mainly reflected losses by the US rather than gains by China.

And even before COVID-19 hit, a survey of business, media and civil society leaders in Southeast Asia showed that Beijing was considered vastly more influential than Washington in the region, though this increasing power was viewed with apprehension.

Nearly half said they had little to no confidence in the US as a strategic partner or provider of regional security.

And when asked if the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was forced to align itself with either the US or China, a majority in seven of the 10 ASEAN member countries chose China.

The past year has also delivered dividends for China’s leaders domestically, with most citizens giving them high marks for their handling of the public health crisis, despite some initial anger of the government’s early attempts to cover up the severity of the pandemic.

This reinforces already high levels of overall trust in the central government.

The contrast with the US in this regard is stark. In May, a cross-country survey revealed that 95% of Chinese respondents had trust in their government, compared with just 48% in the US.




Read more:
US-China relations were already heated. Then coronavirus threw fuel on the flames


Yet, China’s leaders still seem insecure

All of these “wins” would naturally provide impetus for China’s international behaviour to become more confident and assertive.

But President Xi Jinping’s worldview is another factor. In September, Xi exhorted Communist Party cadres to “maintain a fighting spirit and strengthen their ability to struggle”. The word “struggle” appeared more than another 50 times in the same speech.

The Lowy Institute’s Richard McGregor says this reflects Xi’s view that China is in an

existential struggle against an implacable enemy dead-set on destroying China.

China’s diplomats had already been primed to embrace a “fighting spirit” in a speech delivered by Foreign Minister Wang Yi last November.




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What’s behind China’s bullying of Australia? It sees a soft target — and an essential one


All of this has meant that rather than projecting a self-assured poise, China’s international behaviour has frequently veered in the direction of bullying fuelled by insecurity.

Australia has been on the front lines of this treatment — dialogue on the leader and ministerial level has been refused, exports have been targeted and propaganda campaigns have been deployed.

Beijing’s intransigence has predictably led to the strengthening of coalitions like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (comprised of the US, Australia, Japan and India), as well as deeper conversations among Japan, India and Australia about how to build greater resilience into supply chains that are currently heavily exposed to China.

China warned Australia and Japan will ‘pay a corresponding price’ if a new defence pact signed between the countries threatens its security.
Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Greater use of carrots than sticks

There is some evidence China is beginning to recognise its over-the-top behaviour is counterproductive, at least towards some countries, and make greater use of carrots rather than sticks.

Its “vaccine diplomacy” in Southeast Asia is a case in point.




Read more:
China wants to be a friend to the Pacific, but so far, it has failed to match Australia’s COVID-19 response


COVID-19 has hit Indonesia particularly hard, hit with more than 600,000 total cases so far. But just last week, Jakarta received 1.2 million doses of a vaccine manufactured by a Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovac.

China is touting this effort a “Health Silk Road”, with pledges to provide billions in aid and loans to mostly developing countries to help them recover from the pandemic.

Boxes containing coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac arriving last week at a facility in Indonesia.
Indonesian Presidential Palace/AP

Australia won’t have much latitude with a stronger China

In the case of Australia, however, China is unlikely to put the stick down any time soon.

As Dirk van der Klay, a research fellow at ANU, explains, painting a stark contrast between Southeast Asia and Australia serves the purpose of reminding the region of the benefits of staying in Beijing’s good books — as well as the costs of crossing it.

While countries like the US, Britain and France have at least offered Australia some rhetorical support in its China predicament, Australia’s most significant Southeast Asian neighbours have been notably quiet.

With China’s relative power set to grow further in 2021, Canberra might feel even more uncomfortable. But as former senior Singaporean diplomat, Bilahari Kausikan, remarked in October, Australia is “not in a unique position” as “almost everybody” in the region faces the same challenge of managing relations with China and the US to maximise their economic and security interests.

Australia’s unfortunate distinction is that because its relations with China have already sunk to such depths, it has less ability to negotiate a path between the two great powers.

Elevating partnerships with countries like Japan, India and Indonesia offers one way forward, but alongside this needs to be a pragmatic strategy for getting the China relationship at least back on an even keel.

Tokyo, New Delhi and Jakarta have all had serious challenges with Beijing, but their relations never fell to the depths of the current China-Australia tensions. These countries might offer some useful advice here, too.




Read more:
Timeline of a broken relationship: how China and Australia went from chilly to barely speaking


The Conversation


James Laurenceson, Director and Professor, Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI), University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus, China and climate: where Australia’s foreign relations attention will be in 2021



Climate change will continue to be one of the world’s greatest challenges in 2021.
AAP/AP/David Goldman

Melissa Conley Tyler, University of Melbourne

Most of us can’t wait to see the back of 2020, a year that has been memorable for all the wrong reasons. While 2020 provided the ultimate stress test for countries to discover their vulnerabilities, we can confidently predict the New Year will bring its own challenges.

So what will dominate international affairs in 2021? I’m expecting to be watching four Cs: coronavirus, China, climate and crises.

Coronavirus

It should start to get easier, but the pandemic still has a way to play out. 2021 will be about adapting to living with the virus.

We’ll be hoping countries that managed the pandemic well can keep it up, and those that didn’t are helped by the roll-out of vaccines.

We’ll be watching who gets a vaccine and whether access is equitable. How effective the various vaccines are. And how quickly international travel recovers.

Australia will be focused on recovery. It dealt with the health challenge of COVID-19 well, but in the process it has cut itself off from the world. There’s been significant damage to major industries like education and tourism. And terrible experiences for international students, temporary visa holders and Australians stranded overseas.

Coronavirus has shaken many Australian industries, including tourism and education – it will be a long recovery starting in 2021.
AAP/Joel Carrett

While other countries have been worse affected – for example India’s growth trajectory has been knocked years off track – the effects on Australia will be long-lasting. With net negative migration this year, Australia is projected to be more than half a million smaller in 2022, with flow-on effects from construction to retail.

Australian Institute of International Affairs National President Allan Gyngell thinks Australia will be “poorer, weaker and more isolated” in the new COVID-19 world.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response will give us a first draft of the history of the COVID-19 virus, with discussion at the World Health Organization executive board in January, and a substantive report to the World Health Assembly in May.

In the best case scenario, the delayed Tokyo Olympics in July 2021 may be a symbol of renewal, with the global community united in relief and optimism having weathered the worst of the pandemic.

China

China will continue to be a preoccupation for Australia. According to former Department of Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson, Australia can expect to be in the dog house for all of 2021. There’s no sign the Australian government has a plan to repair the relationship.

We’re likely to see further deterioration after a new law was passed this week giving the foreign affairs minister the power to cancel international agreements by state governments, local councils and public universities. If, as expected, Canberra uses this to cancel Victoria’s agreement with China on the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing will see this as another instance of anti-China paranoia.




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Continuing tensions around foreign investment are built into the system. If Australia follows through on taking China to the World Trade Organization, it will be protracted. The trade war is unwinnable for both countries.

There will continue to be human rights issues, with attention on Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as on the cases of detained Australians such as Wang Hengjun and Cheng Lei.

Australian public opinion on China will likely continue its steep decline.

Once President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January, we’ll be watching to see the impact on US-China relations. I think it will be continued contestation, on which there is a bipartisan consensus, but with foreign policy conducted more normally and with more focus on areas of potential collaboration, particularly climate change.

With China-Australian relations taking a nose-dive, what will happen to detained Australian citizens such as Cheng Lei (pictured) and Wang Henjun?
AAP/AP/Ng Han Guan

Climate

This is where the US election result will have the greatest effect on Australia. The Biden administration has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement and convene a world climate summit in its first 100 days to persuade the leaders of carbon-emitting nations to make more ambitious national pledges. When it says it will “stop countries from cheating”, it’s thinking of us.

Australia will be increasingly isolated if it doesn’t fall into line, with its major trading and strategic partners – such as the US, UK, EU, China, Japan and South Korea – all having committed to net zero carbon targets. There will likely be pressure as negotiations for an Australia-EU free trade agreement head towards a conclusion, and negotiations for a post-Brexit Australia-UK agreement commence in earnest.




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There are already signs Australia is recognising it can no longer be such an outlier.

The next conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow in November is likely to capture public attention, like Copenhagen in 2009, as countries with higher ambition push for greater action.

The results at Glasgow will have a huge impact on the trajectory of climate change globally. It’s not an exagerration to say it will be one of the most important international summits in history.

Crises

Beyond these focus areas, there will always be things boiling over. For people who work in international affairs, it feels like it’s always “Events, dear boy, events”: a quote attributed to UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when asked what blows governments off course.

We don’t know where or when, but we know there will be natural disasters. People fleeing. Massacres and terrorist attacks. These events draw attention away from slower-moving changes like some countries’ ongoing decline and others’ steady improvement.

There are plenty of situations that could reach a tipping point in 2021 – or stay where they are a bit longer. Unrest in Thailand. A China-India border standoff. Disputes in the South China Sea (or East China Sea). The flashpoint of Taiwan.

North Korea is capable of manufacturing a crisis any time it thinks it is to its advantage. Russia will stir the pot. Things will be delicate as the new US administration engages with Iran. There is a small but ineradicable risk of nuclear terrorism. Disinformation wars will continue.

Closer to home, Australia knows that it will be drawn into any significant regional crisis, whether that’s Bougainville or a PNG political crisis. Mass unrest in West Papua would be particularly challenging.

West Papua will continue to present one of the greatest foreign policy challenges for Australia.
AAP/AP/ Binsar Bakkara

There are not too many elections that could trigger crises, with Japan and Iran the major elections in 2021. (Australia’s next federal election can be called from August 2021).

Challenging assumptions – and inequities

It’s worth thinking about where our attention might not be in 2021: on the chronic problems that we’ve grown used to. Like more than 2 billion people who don’t have access to safe water and sanitation. Or the nearly 11 million children under five who die each year, mostly from preventable causes.

Ours is still a world of deep inequality. The massive improvements in human well-being over recent decades show that we have the tools to address the remaining pockets of misery. The start of this is to challenge the things we implicitly accept.

If you’re reading this, you’re in the group of people with relative advantage. Think about how you can contribute – whether that’s through your work, donating money or volunteering your time. Find something you think can be improved and decide to make a contribution.

We’re not just spectators in the world of 2021.The Conversation

Melissa Conley Tyler, Research Fellow, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vaccines alone won’t keep Australia safe in 2021. Here’s what else we need to do


Tania Sorrell, University of Sydney; Ian Frazer, The University of Queensland, and Ingrid Scheffer, University of Melbourne

By any global measure, Australia’s response to the COVID pandemic has been a spectacular success. Public health measures introduced by state, territory and federal governments, with the help of the Australian community, have significantly reduced the impact of the disease.

The response has come at significant economic and broader health costs, however. As the second wave in Victoria showed, success can be fragile. The strong measures needed to regain control of an outbreak bring unavoidable social and financial harms.

To avoid another surge in case numbers, it is crucial that we plan for the coming months as we head into 2021.

Emerging evidence suggests the first-generation vaccines currently in clinical trials have a good chance of preventing SARS-CoV-2 related illness, but they are less likely to prevent infection with the virus altogether. This means it is unlikely current vaccines will adequately suppress viral transmission.

This means there’s not yet a “silver bullet” that can return Australia and the world to pre-COVID normality. Instead, we anticipate a scenario in which vaccines, antiviral therapies and other tools that become available will help reduce COVID-associated hospitalisation and deaths.

Suite of measures

To be optimally effective, vaccines must be considered as part of a wider suite of measures. The advent of vaccines does not mean we can now weaken, much less abandon, the other public health methods developed and practised in their absence.

In a new review of likely next developments, published by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, we found that for the foreseeable future, national control of the pandemic will need to be driven by:

  • ongoing implementation of comprehensive public health measures. High levels of swab testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus coupled with contact tracing, isolation and quarantine will be crucial. This should be set alongside physical distancing, enforced if needed, the judicious use of face masks, and effective controls at international borders. The communication and delivery of these approaches increasingly needs take into account differing socio-economic backgrounds, cultural diversity, and rural or suburban locations. To be most effective, they should be developed in consultation with these respective communities.
  • optimal rollout of effective and safe vaccines, treatments and other interventions as they become available, including improved antigen testing to provide rapid options for active case detection



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  • effective prevention and management of the long-term health issues arising from the pandemic, especially mental ill-health and the effects of “long COVID”. Prevention and treatment programs must especially target people who are most vulnerable to COVID, including health professionals, older people, those in low socioeconomic groups and our first nations peoples

  • contributing to the global management of the pandemic, particularly by supporting our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region

  • sustained and enhanced support for research and innovation to deliver the knowledge and tools required to tackle the pandemic – even when case numbers are low.

The top priorities

In our review, we identify four areas for priority attention, subdivided into 15 specific actions, to ensure Australia is equipped to build a system that is robust and yet flexible enough to continue its successful management of the pandemic – at home and abroad.

We need to create effective systems and capabilities to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests.

We must monitor the health impacts of COVID within Australia, and the acceptability, safety, efficacy and uptake of vaccines, treatments and other interventions.

We have to enable ethical and equitable rollout of vaccines, treatments and other interventions.

And finally, we must be able to respond to the evolution of the pandemic through a readiness to modify public health measures appropriately. Frequent hand-washing and cough etiquette must be sustained. Strategies such as hotel quarantine for overseas travellers, and tightening of restrictions during periods of community COVID transmission, are major tools that have shaped Australia’s enviable achievement to date and will doubtless be needed again. This might mean periodic resumptions of strong social distancing, limits on gatherings (particularly indoors), safe use of public transport, wearing of masks, and isolation.




Read more:
We modelled how a COVID vaccine roll-out would work. Here’s what we found


Australia’s capacity to deliver effective public health programs, together with our world-class research and innovation sector, mean we are well placed to execute this agenda.

Doing so successfully will bring additional, longer-term benefits, through enhancing our ability to respond to future pandemics.The Conversation

Tania Sorrell, Professor, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Director, Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney; Ian Frazer, Chair, Medical Advisory Committee, Australian Cancer Research Foundation; Director, Diamantina Institute for Cancer Immunology and Metabolic Medicine, The University of Queensland, and Ingrid Scheffer, Director of Paediatrics, Austin Health; NHMRC Practitioner Fellow; Senior Principal Research Fellow, The Florey Institute; Professor of Paediatric Neurology Research, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Morrison urges Biden to visit in 2021, as US result injects new force into Australia’s climate debate


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has lost no time pivoting to the incoming US administration, declaring on Sunday he hopes Joe Biden and his wife Jill will visit Australia for next year’s 70th anniversary of ANZUS.

“This is a profound time, not just for the United States, but for our partnership and the world more broadly,” Morrison told a news conference.

“And I look forward to forging a great partnership in the spirit of the relationships that has always existed between prime ministers of Australia and presidents of the United States.”

Those around Morrison say the government is already familiar with many figures in the Biden firmament, who were players in the Obama years.

Morrison also thanked Donald Trump and his cabinet “with whom we have had a very, very good working relationship over the years of the Trump administration and, of course, that will continue through the transition period.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese retrospectively sought to put a less controversial gloss on his Friday comment, when he said Morrison should contact Trump and convey “Australia’s strong view that democratic processes must be respected”.

On Sunday Albanese said: “What I suggested was that Scott Morrison needed to stand up for democracy. He’s done that in acknowledging the election of President-elect Biden”.

Within Australia political attention is quickly turning to what a Biden administration will mean for the Morrison government’s climate change policies, and how Biden will handle China.

With an activist climate policy a central feature of Biden’s agenda, including a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 (which Australia has refused to embrace), Australia faces an increased risk of becoming isolated internationally on the issue.

That could have trade and investment implications, something of concern to the business community.

Morrison sought to highlight a common Australian-US commitment to technology.

He said he particularly welcomed campaign comments Biden made “when he showed a lot of similarity to Australia’s views on how technology can be used to address the lower emissions challenge.

“We want to see global emissions fall and it’s not enough for us to meet our commitments,” Morrison said.

“We need to have the transformational technologies that are scalable and affordable for the developing world as well, because that is where all the emissions increases are coming from … in the next 20 years,” he said.

“I believe we will have a very positive discussion about partnerships we can have with the United States about furthering those technological developments that will see a lower emissions future for the world but a stronger economy as well where we don’t say goodbye to jobs,” Morrison said.

Labor will use the Biden win as a springboard to ramp up its attack on the government over climate policy, including in parliament this week.

Albanese said Biden would reject “accounting tricks” like the government’s argument to be allowed to use carryover credits to reach emission reduction targets.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC the US result gave Morrison the opportunity to pivot on climate policy. Now was the time for him to say, “I don’t have to go on with all of the BS about a gas-led recovery, which is political piffle,” Turnbull said.

Chief of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox said the Biden administration would place much more emphasis on climate change and energy policy.

“The commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 will encourage other economies to move down this path. We are already seeing significant steps in recent times from other major trading partners such as Japan, South Korea, the UK and the European Union.

“Australia, led by industry and investor action, is already headed this way without making a formal target commitment,” Willox said.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: A Biden presidency would put pressure on Scott Morrison over climate change


Willox said independent Zali Steggall’s climate change bill – with a pathway to a 2050 target – provided an immediate opportunity to move the debate forward. The bill will be introduced on Monday.

“The Bill is non-partisan. 2050 is many changes of government away, but for some industries it’s just a couple of investment cycles,” Willox said. The Steggall bill is receiving considerable business support.

Willox said the other shift of importance for Australian industry from a Biden administration would be “the opportunity for the US to re-engage with China on trade and broader economic issues.

“Efforts to take the heat out of differences on global trade through a change in tone will be welcomed but there should be no illusion that a Biden administration would seek to markedly soften the US’s stance on key issues,” Willox said.

“The risk for Australia until now has been that we have been caught up as collateral damage in the US-China trade dispute.

“The future risk is that China may seek to substitute Australian exports in key sectors with goods from the US in an effort to reset their economic relationship,” Willox said.

Asked about the prospect of the US rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Morrison said, “I think it would be very early days to speculate on those matters. I would simply say to the United States, the door has always remained open on the TPP. It is open now. It will be open in the future and you are welcome any time.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: COVID response helped NT Labor, encouraging Palaszczuk and McGowan to stick to their scripts


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Both those pressing for states to re-open borders, and defenders of their resistance to doing so, will look for arguments to support their cases in Saturday’s Northern Territory election results.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has taken a tough line on the NT border. With the NT COVID-free, people can’t go to the territory from COVID “hotspots” without quarantining at their own expense.

Labor’s loss of seats – while retaining government whether in majority or minority – is seen by the “open borders” urgers as carrying lessons about putting all (or most) eggs in a keep-safe basket.

It’s accepted that if he hadn’t had COVID to run on, Gunner would have been much worse off, given the NT’s pre-COVID economic problems.

But if he had taken a softer approach to the border, and there’d been a major COVID outbreak, he would have worn serious blame. With indigenous people – who, like the elderly, form a high risk group for COVID – forming about 30% of the NT community, a big outbreak could have been catastrophic.

And while the NT economy remains in poor shape, especially the tourist sector, the state is open internally (they were all hugging at those party functions on Saturday night).

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan are unlikely to see the NT result as sending a signal their border policies will be a political handicap.

That doesn’t mean Palaszczuk and McGowan can afford to rely on their performances on COVID alone when they go to the polls in October and early next year respectively. Their voters will expect more. But as things stand, restrictive border policies are popular and the NT hasn’t said otherwise.

Scott Morrison’s relative powerlessness on the border issue was illustrated at Friday’s national cabinet.

Progress is being made on specific problems, such as the needs of agriculture in border areas, and health matters.

But on the basic question of opening or closing, the premiers remained firm. Only NSW is Morrison’s ally in this battle.

While commentators see the war over borders as a sign of the federation’s dysfunction, voters in particular states read it differently.

Morrison announced at his Friday news conference national cabinet had asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), including state and federal health advisers, to define a “hotspot” and consider movement restrictions relating to these spots.

He hopes such a definition would put pressure on premiers and chief ministers to limit border closures.

It is apparently trodden and tricky territory. Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told the news conference: “It is a piece of work we have had an attempt at before. And we’ll continue to try to get consensus there in AHPPC about a definition of a hotspot.”

It remains to be seen whether this committee can agree. And if it does, whether that would make any difference to what leaders do.

But when parliament resumes on Monday, it won’t be borders that will be the front of mind issue – it will be aged care.

With a majority of COVID deaths being people who lived in aged care facilities, and an absolute shocker of a performance from Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck on Friday, the opposition has a lot of ammunition.

Colbeck, appearing before the Senate COVID committee, was asked two simple questions. How many deaths had there been of residents of facilities, and how many COVID cases were there among residents at present. He could neither remember, nor find the numbers immediately. This was appalling preparation.

Forced to defend Colbeck, Morrison said, “on occasion, I can’t call every figure to mind”.

But the PM knew such a lapse has an impact beyond its strictly objective importance.

An example from long ago makes the point. Late in the Hawke government, then treasurer John Kerin at a news conference was unable to explain an economic term. It was hardly a hanging offence. But it damaged Kerin, and the government.

With the Colbeck clip shown over and over, it quickly becomes a symbol of both the minister’s failure, and the failure of the government to do enough to protect aged care residents.

The odds are short that Morrison will move Colbeck from aged care when he reshuffles his ministry following the departure of Mathias Cormann late this year.

But Colbeck is only one player in the aged care crisis, and not the most important. He’s the junior minister in the health portfolio. The Health Minister Greg Hunt, the prime minister, the government regulator of the industry (the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission), and advisers to government share responsibility. And it is important we don’t forget the private providers: did some of them not heed warnings?

Ultimate political responsibility belongs to the federal government.

Faced with questions about the Victorian aged care disaster, Morrison has tried to unload some of the blame onto the state government by saying the states have responsibility for public health.

That’s true and the Victorian government must be accountable, both for unleashing community transmission with the quarantine breach and for inadequacies in its health reaction. But the fact the federal government is responsible for the sector means Morrison, Colbeck and Hunt need to both admit the Commonwealth’s mistakes and also lay out a convincing roadmap for the future.

Some actions are being undertaken, and there is the complication that the report of the royal commission into aged care is still months away. But the issue is urgent.

The Morrison government is always reluctant to be seen to be pushed, and Friday’s national cabinet provided an interesting insight into this.

When the royal commission less than a fortnight ago suggested, based on evidence from Monash University geriatrician Joseph Ibrahim, that the government should set up an advisory unit including people with expertise in aged care, infection control and emergency responses, Morrison was publicity dismissive.

But the statement from Friday’s national cabinet said: “A time-limited AHPPC Aged Care Advisory Group will be established to support the national public health emergency response to COVID-19 in aged care. The Advisory Group will bring together expertise about the aged care sector, infection control, emergency preparedness and public health response.”

Take a bow, Professor Ibrahim and the royal commission.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.