Dan O'Heirity

Lockdown Restrictions Partially Eased in Metropolitan Melbourne

Victoria has been in a continuous state of lockdown for 4 months. During that time, restrictions in regional Victoria have been less harsh than the restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne. I will concentrate here on Metropolitan Melbourne. Stage 3 restrictions were re-imposed on metropolitan Melbourne on July 7th, 2020. Stage 4 restrictions were imposed on metropolitan Melbourne on 2nd August, 2020. During these four months, we’ve been confined to our homes for 22 hours per day, limited in terms of the reasons for being allowed outside, restricted to travelling within strict distances from our place of residence and we’ve been subject to a police enforced curfew. Restrictions were due to be eased on Sunday 25th October but the move was delayed by premier Daniel Andrews in order to conduct a round of testing after Victoria recorded 7 new cases. However, as reported by ABC News, as of 11:59 PM on Tuesday 27th October, restrictions have been eased because Victoria has met the Covid-19 target of a rolling average of less than five new cases per day. Before I given an account of some aspects of the eased restrictions, I would encourage you to watch this video which will provide real insight into just what has happened in Victoria over the last 6 months.

So, in terms of the easing of restrictions, people in metropolitan Melbourne can now leave their homes for any reason. All retail stores will be allowed to reopen. Beauty, personal services and tattoo parlours can re-open as long as staff and customers wear masks. Hospitality businesses can now seat patrons, including inside the premises. However, a 25KM from home travel radius remains in place until 11:59 on 8th November as does the restricted travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

The easing of restrictions is, of course, a huge relief and it returns some of our freedoms to us. However, this celebration should be balanced with sober consideration of what has happened in Australia this year. The first Covid-19 case was reported on January 25th, 2020. The different states in Australia have dealt with the virus in different ways and with different degrees of success over time. However, the state of Victoria has been least successful in combatting the virus and there is one key reason for this fact. The quarantining of passengers returning from overseas was mismanaged by private security firms. Victoria’s second wave, which has seen 18,000 new infections and 750 deaths can be traced back to outbreaks at the two Melbourne hotels where the quarantining occurred. Secondly, in the state of Victoria there have been 1,331 Covid-19 cases in aged care facilities and 655 deaths. Compare this with the fact that in Australia as a whole there have been 1,364 cases in aged care facilities and 685 deaths.

The inescapable conclusion is that something has gone very wrong in Victoria both with the hotel quarantine procedure and with protecting the most vulnerable members of society from Covid-19. Peta Credlin, a Sky News Host, has been interviewed on this issue by Paul Murray, another Sky News Host.

Granted it’s a bit of a Sky News “love in” but Credlin asserts very strongly that the state of Victoria has completely mismanaged the Covid19 pandemic through the bungling of the hotel quarantine and through failing to protect those in aged care services from the virus. Credlin is also highly sceptical of the independent inquiry being conducted in to what happened with the quarantining of passengers returning from overseas. She makes the point that regarding her upcoming one hour long program looking at what has gone in Victoria that she will be speaking to people who wanted to testify at the inquiry but who have never been called.

How Can Victoria Move Forwards With Restrictions Lifted?

I don’t believe that anyone would want to claim that we have eradicated the virus in Victoria. The question is, therefore, what will happen should we see an increase in the number of cases such that the rolling average is more than five cases per day. To put it another way, as reported by the “Herald Sun“, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said that it’s easy to get zero case numbers when you’re in lockdown. The implication is, of course, that Covid-19 may well return when lockdown measures are eased. The question is what to do should that happen. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was very unhappy with Daniel Andrew’s delay in easing restrictions, has offered one way in which Victoria might move forwards. Morrison has said that at some point Victoria has to put its faith in the fact that its health systems will work. I take this to mean that from Morrison’s perspective, Victoria now needs to remain open no matter if there is an increase in the number of cases beyond the rolling average that was set for easing the lockdown. Given that there is no vaccine along with the fact that other countries around the world are suffering under further waves of the virus, this might seem like risky way forward. However, if you look at how these countries are dealing with the second wave you will see, broadly speaking, that they are trying to contain the virus without shutting their countries down. For example, across different countries there is mandatory mask wearing on public transport and in shops. Hospitality venues are restricted to providing takeaway services and public gatherings are limited in numbers.

There is an interesting article in “The Conversation” published ahead of the recent easing of lockdown measures. The article makes two key points. First, the blanket lockdowns that have been in place since early July have given Victoria time to ensure that the public health system can cope with the virus. Also, Victoria now has stronger measures in place for testing, contact tracing and isolating outbreaks. The way in which Victoria managed the outbreak ahead of the easing of restrictions may indicate as much, The article goes on to say that, “many Melburnians now have a minuscule risk” of contracting the virus. The second point that the article makes is that we now need to trust Melburnians to make their own Covid safe decisions rather than imposing blanket rules upon the city and more widely across regional Victoria. However, the unfortunate point here is that too many people are utterly stupid. Case in point. Hundreds of shoppers flocked to K-Mart, queuing up on Tuesday night to enter the store after the lockdown restrictions were eased at 11:59 PM. Video footage shows that they were not following any social distancing rules. Seriously. What was going through their minds? Rhetorical question. Nothing was going through their minds because they don’t actually have minds.

China’s Belligerence is Confounding International Analysts

I’ve been writing these posts for a while now and every now and then I’ve commented on the fact that Beijing’s belligerence and arrogance has been on show for the world to see. I have also commented on the fact that Beijing now seems to think that it is in some kind of unassailable position vis-à-vis the rest of the world to the extent that Xi Jinping now believes that he can do whatever he wishes. Today, I came across a story expressing the same consternation about Beijing’s behaviour. The story has two angles. First, China is alienating, if not making enemies of countries around the world including, for example, India and Canada. At the same time, China’s increasing disregard for world opinion in the face of, for example, its actions in introducing a new Security Law in Hong Kong, is leading to countries around the world forming new alliances in order to be in a position of strength in relation to China. An example of such an alliance would be the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), an informal security framework between Japan, the US, Australia and India. China has reacted vehemently against the formation of the Quad along with the activities that will be undertaken by the participating nations.

First Published October 29th, 2020

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