“Wow, a lot of questions today,” said Stan, looking out at the raised hands before him. Ah, let’s see… Yes, Marcus. Go ahead.”
A young reporter wearing a business shirt and a tie stood up in the middle of the group and asked, “This state’s two-week lockdown has now stretched well over a year—as long as you are premier, will the lockdown extensions ever cease?”
Stan glared at Marcus, then cleared his throat. “Look, it’s a complex situation we’re dealing with here. Remember—we’ve seen nothing like this before, and so our Covid battle strategy is constantly being reviewed and, where necessary, evolving, to make sure all our citizens have access to the best possible treatments and care. As I’ve said before, and I stand by it—we have the best doctors and medical staff in the world. And as more people come forward and get vaccinated, obviously that puts us on the right path. Do I want to see people living their lives safe from Covid? Yes, absolutely. Can we get to that point without some hardship and sacrifice? Unfortunately, the honest answer is no. But there are things we can do to speed the process. To that end, I will be allocating more government funding to Covid research—more, in fact, than any other premier in the country. More hospital beds, more medical staff, better access to vital recovery resources. Moving forward, we will be in a much stronger position, and better equipped for a free and prosperous future.” Stan took a breath and wiped the sweat from his upper lip. “I think that answers your question. Right, who’s next? Ah… yes, Phillip.”
Marcus stood stunned for a moment, then sat down. Phillip, a big-bellied man in a black suit, stood up at the back of the group. “Yes, regarding the thousands of new security cameras that have been installed in major cities, is this part of a crackdown on protesters?” Phillip held out a microphone to record the response.
Stan clenched his teeth and gave an icy grin. He wagged a finger at Phillip. “You noticed the new cameras, huh?” His hand formed a tight, trembling fist. “You’re an observant fellow, aren’t you?” Stan sniffed, then looked down at his notes and flipped a page. He read aloud, “The additional security cameras are to aid monitoring and analytics, to ensure maximum safety and Covid guideline compliance. Next question.”
Hands raised and Phillip sat down. Stan stared blankly at the floor and chewed his thumbnail. A woman in a white jacket stood up and called out, “Premier Berserkervich, Helen Booth, Insight Tonight. The four deaths you mentioned—”
Stan snapped out of his daze and looked up at her. “Mmm?”
“The four deaths—the man, the woman, and two young boys—they were a family. The man and the woman were married, and the boys were their children. They died in a car accident when their car veered off a country road and hit a tree, so why are their deaths being recorded as Covid-related?”
Stan cleared his throat. “Right,” he said. He looked down at his notes, flipped the pages back and forward, then adjusted his tie. “Well, under current testing rates and projected infection models, it was almost certain that those people were Covid-positive.”
“They died in a car crash,” repeated Helen.
“Look, our police and health workers are highly trained and experienced in these matters, more so than any of us in this room, and if they declare a person has died of Covid, then I trust their scientific judgment.”
“Surely though, you can’t attribute a fatal car crash to Covid?”
“I have faith in our frontline workers, who can properly assess the scientific details in these multifaceted situations.”
“But again, it was a car crash.”
“It’s really about the science.”
“Do you expect us to believe that—”
“Science,” interrupted Stan.
“What?” said Helen. She and Stan stared at each other. “In the case of a car crash—”
“Science,” said Stan.
“Mr Premier, I want to—”
“Science,” said Stan. He folded his arms and stepped back from the podium.
Helen stood stared at him, and then finally shrugged and sat down. Stan stepped forward again and pointed to a man in the front row wearing a blue polo shirt. “Yes, you.”
The man stood up. “With these new guidelines for attending a movie, rather than having some people go maskless to and from the cinema, and then having others go maskless while in the cinema, why not have everyone go maskless to and from the venue, and then have everyone go maskless while in the cinema as well?”
All eyes were on Stan. His brow knitted and he tilted his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, and then looked at the reporter. “Okay, but… when would people wear their masks?”
“They wouldn’t,” answered the man.
Stan peered at him, then a smile stretched across his face. He began to laugh. He slapped the podium and shook his head. “Oh, you haven’t got a clue, have you? Twenty months into this pandemic, and you still don’t get it.” With his hands grasping the podium, he leaned forward and spoke slowly and clearly, “PEOPLE. MUST. WEAR. MASKS.” He leaned back and chuckled. “Dear oh dear, maybe next time come a little more prepared.”
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