‘Extreme measures’ ignored with one-track mind in refusal to scrap Grand Prix

It seems really odd and inconsistent, in these scary days of the coronavirus pandemic, that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has not stepped in and cancelled the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

And I say that, living within the sound of the revving practice engines at Albert Park.

It prompted this tweet: ‘Look at the crisis in Italy with all sport banned. If coronavirus is so serious and Premier Andrews is talking about closing schools, why doesn’t he cancel the Grand Prix?’

The Premier has publicly warned that “extreme measures” will be needed but he seems reluctant to take them.

Hasn’t he heard the words ‘horse’ and ‘bolted’?

British team McLaren’s withdrawal from the Formula One season opener after a team member tested positive for coronavirus forced F1’s hierarchy into a crisis two-hour summit meeting.

Numerous media reports are Friday morning stating that a decision has since been made to postpone the Grand Prix as a majority of the teams were unhappy to continue but there has been no official confirmation.

Meanwhile, the federal Opposition is calling for bans on mass gatherings.

Shadow cabinet minister Bill Shorten says Australian schools should close and mass events be cancelled.

He called it a “public health emergency” that needs urgent, even “draconian”, action “not in weeks and months but in days”.

I realise that more than 80,000 undeterred people jammed the MCG for the Women’s T20 World Cup cricket final on Sunday night and Prime Minister Scott Morrison sounded decidedly Trumpian when he said he’d be going to the football at the weekend and was looking forward to it.

(That was around the time President Trump, in a broadcast to the world, made the dramatic announcement that he was banning flights into the US from Europe for a month, which sent airline and travel stocks down the drain. Then the public service stepped in to explain that wasn’t strictly true and published a ream of exemptions.)

But back to us and the Grand Prix. It does seem to me that a lot of Australians are not taking this genuine health emergency as seriously as we should – despite the dunny paper wars in supermarket aisles.

There are now reported cases in more than 100 countries, and a growing international death rate, but there was a truly sophomoric feature in the Sydney Morning Herald by a yuppy, along the lines of ‘I’ve got coronavirus, so what? What’s the big deal?’

He’d obviously go down well in Italy, where they had 15 cases two weeks ago and now, not only is the figure around 50,000, the Italian government has ordered a shutdown of the whole country apart from supermarkets, food outlets and chemists.

The Italian connection makes even more puzzling the Victorian government’s decision not to close the Grand Prix – or at least let it run with no spectators (as some overseas sporting events are now doing).

And why were Italian Grand Prix teams allowed into Australia? I guess because there is no GP without Ferrari.

No surprise to me that seven or eight pit crew members, under suspicion of contracting the virus, have been isolated.

Whether the Grand Prix is cancelled or curtailed, that will then probably focus attention on the Melbourne Cup, which attracts 100,000 people at very close quarters.

There is hope there, though.

I have read that the coronavirus falters in the heat. So for Europe, the UK, the United States and Canada, the northern summer cannot come quickly enough for health reasons.

By that reckoning, Melbourne will be warming up by Cup Day so the threat may be passing, or at least weakening.

One thing can be guaranteed: Australia’s exposure is getting, and will continue to get, international headlines with the shock Thursday news from the Gold Coast that Tom Hanks (playing Colonel Tom Parker in a new Elvis Presley movie) and his wife, Rita Wilson, have both contracted the virus.

Hanks was at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday night to see Rita perform.

Will all those patrons be contacted – and how can they find them?

And think of how many hands the accessible Hanks has shaken in recent days. And how many selfie close-ups.

Face it. This is reality in 2020.


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