I’ve been following the situation in Melbourne, Australia with great interest. If you haven’t been following along, Australia was initially shielded from an early Covid surge, presumably by its geographical remoteness and low population and population density. (Australia has a population of only 25 million, less than California or Texas.) Australia went on lockdown and effectively stamped out Covid. A couple months ago, however, the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is, experienced a resurgence. The government instituted another lockdown, comparable in severity to what’s been done in more conservative states like Washington and Pennsylvania. When that lockdown failed to be effective, they instituted a second lockdown for six weeks that I can compare only to communist China. This lockdown, not surprisingly, has been effective.
It’s worth noting that the second outbreak was seeded by Australians returning from the USA who were staying at quarantine hotels. It’s a little unclear to me exactly what happened, but there were rules violations either by the hotel residents, workers, or both. I think both. Their quarantine hotel system is pretty severe, and it’s interesting / depressing how a limited number of violations touched off a major outbreak. The US’s honor system quarantine rules don’t have a prayer, in my opinion.
In any case, here’s a graphic of Victoria (Melbourne) cases. Victoria has a population of 7 million. That’s about the same number of people as we have in Washington.
To put these numbers in perspective, in Washington state, numbers peaked at about twice these levels in June / July. And Washington state has had maybe half the cases per capita at peak as compared to Texas or California. So, Melbourne experienced a very real surge, but nothing like US hot spots.
For reference, you can see here that initially, they had very few cases (though I suppose we don’t know how effective testing was), and they were effective stamped out.
The draconian lockdown Victoria residents are currently under includes, as a sampling, restrictions like the following:
- Very limited list of essential businesses which people can leave the house to work at. (The US has a very broad list of “essential businesses.”)
- One person may leave the household per day for groceries or essentials
- No one may go more than 5 km from their house. This is enforced with checkpoints.
- Playgrounds are closed.
- You may not leave the state without a permit from the government. One person who had such a permit but failed to quarantine upon their return to their state has been sentenced to six months in prison.
- No demonstrations or protests of any kind. One woman was arrested for posting about a protest on social media.
- Playgrounds closed.
As you can see from the chart above, the lockdown has been successful. Some analysts are saying that if the lockdown is continued through the end of *October*, they could eliminate Covid completely from Victoria.
The government is supposed to announced a plan this Sunday for leaving lockdown.
Now, it’s hard to say whether this kind of management makes sense. My personal opinion is, given the severity of Covid, absolutely not. However, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Australia will eliminate Covid. Lockdown will end, and Australians will be able to go about their normal lives with kids in school, sports, parties, jobs, etc., all back to normal by the end of the year while we in the US are still home schooling (or at least those of us in Democrat-run states). To achieve this, Victorians will have spent many months on lockdown, including six or more weeks as virtual prisoners in their homes.
If it doesn’t work, and they can’t stamp out Covid and have to either resort to more lockdowns, or give up, then this will have been a colossal disaster for Australia. If it does work and they can go back to their normal lives, maybe it will have been worth it. It will be fascinating to see how things pan out.
I don’t think this approach was ever a possibility in the US due to culture, larger population and population density, much more extensive spread in CA and NY before we knew what was happening, lack of strong federal leadership, lack of enforceable state borders, and on and on. I am very glad I don’t live in Australia, but for a more severe illness, this is exactly the right sort of approach. And I don’t think the US will have the will or ability to implement it, no matter who is president.