The era of containment is over. Too bad we only resolved this while millions of Australians are still stranded.
The era of containment is over.
The only catch is, we can’t quite celebrate yet because half the nation is on lockdown.
And there is perhaps no more fitting final act in the coronavirus saga than this tragicomic theater of the absurd.
After more than a year and a half of Orwellian double talk and Machiavellian power games, Australia has finally come to its senses. Unfortunately, he only did this in theory, not in practice.
From the onset of the pandemic, some of us could clearly see that mass lockdowns would never be a long-term solution, let alone a human solution.
We pleaded for the vital importance of children in school and adults at work and therefore were naturally condemned as capo-fascist killers of grannies.
It would be inappropriate to sing now that we were right, but hey, we were right.
Victoria has subjected her citizens to four months of lockdown throughout the harsh winter of 2020 in a bid to defeat the virus. But the bug returned and the state froze again.
And even. And even.
Meanwhile, NSW has shown that with a well-managed and well-resourced contact tracing system, you can beat Covid-19 without city or state lockdowns.
The Casula outbreak, the Northern Beaches outbreak, the Croydon outbreak, the Berala outbreak and countless other hotel quarantine leaks have all been contained and squashed.
Everything changed with the Delta variant.
Officials in NSW clearly believed they could beat him as they did with others, first with just contact tracing, then with local lockdowns, then with a “lockdown lite” city-wide and finally with some of the toughest measures ever.
None of this worked. As all health experts and Blind Freddy himself now know, we’ll never go back to zero again.
The predictable Pavlovian response from hardliners was that it was because we hadn’t locked fast enough or hard enough.
And of course, when Delta came down, the Victorian Prime Minister of the South, Daniel Andrews, locked himself in hard and quickly. After a few weeks, he announced that they had reached zero cases overnight.
On the same day, Melbourne was again stranded. For the sixth time.
On Wednesday, it looked like Victoria would have started curving the curve again, releasing just 45 cases overnight. The next day, that number almost doubled.
An exasperated Andrews finally admitted that there were “not a lot of levers we can pull”.
In short, he went as strong and fast as he could and the virus is still circulating and the Melburnians are still living under the yoke.
Maybe it was just bad luck, but if it is, there’s a ton going around.
At Fortress New Zealand, the global poster for ultra-hard lockdowns, they shut down the country in just one case. As of Thursday, there were over 60 new cases.
Of course, Delta could possibly be kept at bay for a while in some more sparse scenarios, but unless those jurisdictions plan to become Hermit States, it’s hard to see what their long-term strategy is.
It is also true that the Victorian and New Zealand epidemics were caused by residents of New South Wales – sorry for that! – but NSW could also claim that its outbreak came from elsewhere as well.
Or that the great fear of Sydney’s second wave came from Victoria. The problem with the finger of blame is that it always ends up pointing in a circular direction.
The important thing is that even the most reluctant and recalcitrant are finally seeing the light of day: Hard and fast or soft and slow, confinements now belong to the same historical garbage as eugenics and the theory of ether.
They were never really needed in Australia, as its most populous state has proven time and time again, and when it comes to the current outbreak, they clearly aren’t working.
The New Zealand and Victorian governments are now subtly suggesting what NSW shouted from the rooftops – that it is not possible to beat the Delta variant with such medieval measures.
It should also be noted that on Thursday, NSW and Victoria had reached almost exactly the same number of Covid cases – around 21,500.
In Victoria 820 people died, in NSW only 133.
That’s the difference vaccination makes and that’s why even with a record number of cases, NSW is now lifting restrictions instead of tightening them.
Indeed, the new modeling from the Doherty Institute confirms that it won’t increase the death toll, but anyone who can count could see it with their own eyes.
Even one of the Andrews government’s top foreclosure advisers, the epidemiologist and staunch former eliminationist Tony Blakely, is now advocating a relaxation of the current lockdown.
Likewise, Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has now endorsed the national route out of the blockades. And Chris Minns of NSW Labor delivered from the opposition what some of his counterparts failed to deliver to government: leadership.
With Labor MPs representing virtually every Sydney Covid hotspot, Minns last week called on every local member to make sure their communities get vaccinated.
And this week, he backed a strategy to get children back to school next term, for which opposition support will be essential.
It’s work at its best, putting people before the score.
Meanwhile, the isolationist prime ministers of Queensland and Western Australia increasingly resemble the last apocryphal Japanese soldier on the island, waging a long-lost lone war.
The final irony in all of this is that those locked up now may be free the longest, as vaccination rates rise in NSW and Victoria and stagnate in breakaway states.
Soon we will be reunited with the world while the wallflowers are biting their nails in the corner.