Unlike other countries, including Canada, which aim to maintain new infections at a level that will not overwhelm the medical system, Australia is determined to nearly remove the virus from its shores.
When Australia was hit by a spike in COVID-19 cases in late July just weeks after announcing victory against the first wave, it prompted one of the world’s longest lockdowns in Melbourne, for example, to close nearly everything that wasn’t a grocery store or hospital for nearly four months.
In many cities, roadblocks are created to ensure people stay at home. Even when restrictions are relaxed, there is a curfew and at the start of the lockdown, people are not allowed to be more than five kilometers from homes in certain areas. Break the rules, and you could face a $ 1,300 fine.
Schools initially had extended vacations – and then education moved, in many places, completely online. Restrictions are sometimes so violent that in some areas, it is illegal to even walk your dog on your own path.
“Those are not rules against you, they are rules for you,” explained Daniel Andrews, Prime Minister of Victoria, in a public statement on Nov. 8, reminding people of the purpose of the restrictions. “It’s about your safety, your job, your community, your family, your country.”
Australians arriving from overseas must apply to return – there are daily restrictions – and each of them is required to be quarantined at a government-designated hotel, sometimes guarded by soldiers.
South Australian Prime Minister Steven Marshall has bluntly said it in public briefing on 17 November: “No second chance to stop the second wave.”
This approach has been largely successful. Recorded cases in the country peaked at 739 on August 5, but the count has been continuing since then shrinking steadily and most Australian cities have been weeks without a new case.
That has cost us one million jobs across the country and thousands of businesses that are now failing. But it’s worth it, said Dr. Nancy Baxter, who runs the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.
“You can’t have a functioning economy with a pandemic raging. It’s not economy versus life,” he told CBC News.
Baxter is a Canadian who moved to Melbourne just before the city went into lockdown. He is now worried about his friends in Canada, where the approach to the pandemic is very different.
“To hear what happened in Ontario, it was shocking … It seems like what happened was that public health officials were telling the government one thing, that’s not what they wanted to hear, so they just changed policy to simply admit defeat and said they would let the epidemic run wild. in Ontario. “
He spoke before Ontario instituted a lockdown in much of the Greater Toronto area on Nov. 23. Yet even now as the number of cases spiked, nowhere in Canada has the government reached the level that Australia did.
Australians have also, broadly, accepted the move. Their image as rule breakers like Crocodile Dundee has been shattered by widespread adherence to some of the world’s toughest pandemic restrictions.
Being surrounded by water, Australia has the ability to severely restrict entry into the country. Canada, meanwhile, relies heavily on commercial truck drivers to carry food and other goods from the United States, and they are among the key workers exempt from quarantine requirements.
“Australia is unique in that we can actually control who enters and leaves the country,” said Jason Dutton, a chemistry professor in Melbourne, and other Canadian transplants.
“We have done it the right way, putting aggressive zero pressure,” he added.
Dutton also suggested so-called “pandemic fatigue” was not yet taking on the same form in Australia as in other countries.
“When the government came out and they mandated masks in the first week of August, there were about 20 seconds of complaints and then everyone showed up with masks that match their shirts.”
Now comes the big test.
Restrictions have now eased, and restaurants and bars, long closed, have reopened. The country is waiting to see if everything will lead to a new surge.
There is high sensitivity, and a pervasive desire to eradicate any re-emergence of the virus immediately.
In the city of Adelaide, which was declared COVID-free in September, for example, one cough in a hospital this month finally triggered a six-day “circuit breaker” lockout.
South Australians will stop and build a 6 day circuit breaker that will allow us to get ahead of the Parafield Cluster.
This means all non-essential workers should stay home and only go to grocery and medical supplies stores.
We do this to keep SA safe and strong. pic.twitter.com/qbSvfIrkvX
One elderly woman in hospital has been infected, and is among the 30 or so identified after extensive contact tracing efforts.
Thousands of people in the city have been told to get tested for COVID-19, and there has been a complete public shutdown in an attempt to destroy the virus’s presence.
As one Adelaide resident told a local news crew: “Makes sense, right? We don’t want to end up like the rest of the world.”
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