Australia is caught in a bind. They managed the early stage of the pandemic well, so well that they’ve backed themselves into a corner haven’t had an end game. Lockdowns have increased, frustrations have grown, and citizens haven’t been able to travel abroad – and often even domestically – for a year and a half. And Qantas has a new commercial offering hope.
Australia Kept Covid Mostly Under Control Until Now, But Had No End Game
There was an early outbreak that the country was able to contain through testing and contact-tracing as well as a closed border. It’s possible for remote island nations to keep out the virus, because borders aren’t nearly as porous and they are for most countries. There were scares and outbreaks, to be sure, like when a state quarantine guard slept with an arriving passenger and brought Covid into the community last summer, and with an unvaccinated and unmasked driver of foreign air crew contracting the virus and spreading it.
The country handled the virus so well that vaccination wasn’t nearly as urgent as for the U.S. and Europe. They bet heavily on AstraZeneca, but when reports of side effects especially in younger women started to surface they froze. There wasn’t much virus in the country, so even modest risks didn’t make as much sense to take they thought. And with politicians having bet on lockdowns over vaccines, many even talked against the available vaccines as a path out of Covid.
Australia has Pfizer on the way, and faces a growing outbreak of the Delta variant. Lockdowns aren’t permanent solutions, a virus is going to virus, but can be a bridge to a solution – delaying infections until help arrives. Australia remains one of the least-vaccinated well-developed Western-style countries.
Lockdowns Are Wearing On The Country
Australians are tiring of lockdowns, far stricter than anything seen in the U.S. For instance in the highest-risk areas of Sydney there aren’t just curfews but exercise time limits where residents are limited to being outside for an hour per day. Masks are mandatory outdoors. No one may visit homes, even family members who don’t live there. Work from home is mandatory. Fines are AU$5000 “on the spit” for many activities, though just $3000 for breaking two-person outdoor exercise rules
Australia going off right now. Anti-lockdown protests trying to show the government what is right. pic.twitter.com/HhcmkGmNgN
— BackyardBoy (@backyardboy45) August 22, 2021
— Rachael Dexter (@rachael_dexter) August 21, 2021
Some heroes don’t wear capes. 🔥 Aussie William Wallace 🔥
A man rode his horse through today’s protest at Queensland-New South Wales border in Australia, encouraging crowds to cross through checkpoints. “Cross over! They cannot arrest all of us!” Source: https://t.co/ZjOvhcMlJ6 pic.twitter.com/5YmuIqoHwa
— Shiloh10java (@shiloh10java) August 22, 2021
There are Australians trapped abroad due to limits on the number of people who can enter the country and go into mandatory quarantine. There have also been restrictions on leaving the country, too.
I haven’t been able to visit my family there since 2019. I have two new family members that have been born during the pandemic. Right now some of them can’t even visit each other. There’s been a bubble that allowed travel to New Zealand, but threatened prosecution of Australians who used to that to fly onward to other countries, even.
Qantas Has A New Commercial Offering Hope
Qantas has produced a new commercial: get vaccinated and maybe the government will let you leave the country. I cried watching this.
Even for Australia, The Only End Game Is Learning To Live With Covid-19
In the spring Australia’s government was saying that vaccines might not be enough for the country to re-open. But against the backdrop of protests, with lockdowns no longer leading to the same boosts in popularity for leaders that they once did, their Prime Minister is now saying that once they hit 70% – 80% of the country vaccinated they may have to learn to live with Covid.
At 70%, domestic borders could be opened and then perhaps at 80% they’ll reduce (though not necessarily eliminate) restrictions on international travel. Their politicians are now recognizing that lockdowns are a delaying tactic, so they have to delay to something. That means vaccination (which so far they’ve botched) and better treatments, because a strategy of zero covid isn’t going to work forever. Indeed, it isn’t even working now as the country faces the most daily cases it’s seen so far.
By the way here are scenes from Bangkok, now that Thailand has become basically Australia with better street food.