Here we go again. Lockdown number 6 was announced by the Victorian Government last night and now we’re all cooped-up in our homes whilst we hope that the latest outbreak of the Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant is eliminated.
This is truly becoming tiresome and Victoria has suffered more COVID-19 lockdowns than any other state by far. Last year I wrote a lengthy article about my frustrations with lockdown (then our second). What has hit me hardest this time around is not the stress of managing work and childcare but the frequency with which these lockdowns have arisen. This is the third in two months.
That said, I support the actions of the State Government of Victoria in managing this crisis. Victoria clearly made some mistakes early on, but we learnt from them and applied those lessons to subsequent outbreaks. We know what we have to do.
I look north with incredulity that our experiences have meant nothing to the Government of New South Wales. Premier Gladys Berejiklian has presided over 18 months of arrogance in criticising Victoria’s actions and publicly boasting that “we’re not Victoria” to her constituents. Every time I heard news of this hubris, it felt like a kick in the guts. After 110 days in lockdown, no Victorian was in the mood to bear such insults. Yet how the tables have turned.
Ms. Berejiklian has presided over a hesitant and cowardly response to this outbreak of the Delta variant in Sydney. Too scared to properly shut-down her state when the case numbers were in the low teens, she’s allowed the cases to blow out to a whopping 291 today. That’s a record for her state during this pandemic and presents a significant danger not only to her own people but the wider Australian population.
Victoria learned early-on that the best approach was to “go hard and go early”, to paraphrase Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Indeed, COVID-19 outbreaks are the one scenario where the best course of action is to crack the walnut with the sledgehammer. Victoria was serious; we shut down the non-essential shops, we limited travel and we sent the majority of workers home. We mandated masks indoors and out. It has been very painful but we’ve defeated it five times and I have every confidence we can defeat it a sixth.
I am not feeling at all confident about what I see north of the Murray River. Masks only became mandatory outside in late July and even then, only in some municipalities. Many non-essential shops remained open during the earlier stages of lockdown, and this only facilitated the further spread of disease. (The NSW Premier actually told her citizens that browsing is not allowed when Victoria had removed the opportunity altogether). It’s seemed to me that the NSW government is more concerned about “saving face” than saving lives. It begs its people to use “common sense”. This lacklustre approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia’s most populous state has put the rest of us in jeopardy.
Ms. Berejiklian is correct when she says that vaccination rates are still too low. The Commonwealth has much to answer for in this regard. But that is not the primary issue.
I have little faith that this NSW outbreak will be properly brought under control until lockdown is taken seriously and implemented properly, statewide. That means closing-down retail, proper travel restrictions, masks everywhere and a clear definition of “essential”.
I feel genuinely sorry for the people of New South Wales who are stuck in such an extended lockdown. I feel their pain and know only too well how disruptive and upsetting it is. But most of all, I feel sorry for them because they have a government that values pride and arrogance over the health and wellbeing of its people.
It’s in everyone’s interests that this outbreak is brought under control. I wish New South Wales the very best in this regard.