How Melbourne’s ‘short and sharp’ Covid lockdowns became the longest in the world | Melbourne

IIt’s been 19 months since Melbourne. From Tuesday October 5, Australia’s second largest city will be closed for 246 days – overtaking Buenos Aires as the city with the most days spent under stay-at-home orders.

By now Melbourne is closed Lifts at the end of the month, will have spent 267 days in lockdown – 45% of the time since the coronavirus pandemic was announced on March 12, 2020.

It’s a strategy that has left the city feeling economically and psychologically depressed, but has also succeeded, five times in a row, in reducing the number of cases to zero.

But in the sixth lockdown of Melbourne, the Victorian prime minister, Daniel Andrews, has officially given up hopes of reaching zero daily cases, replacing it with a goal of getting at least 80% of Victoria’s population over the age of 16.

The lockdown will be lifted once the vaccination rate reaches 70%, expected around October 26. Support for the Victorian government’s handling of the pandemic is waning. Basic poll last week For Guardian Australia, it found the Andrews government’s approval had fallen to 44%.

Compliance with the strict restrictions is also declining. Parties were held over the weekend of the NFL Final – which was Moved from Melbourne To the constantly virus-free city of Perth – led to a 50% rise in the number of cases on Thursday، Extended Vaccine Mandates for more than a million workers.

Talk to Melburnians and the vast majority say they support The Andrews government’s decision to shut down severely When the first signs of an outbreak appear.

But opposition to the health measures, while still a minority movement, is growing and has erupted in the streets. Five thousand people joined a Violent mosque protest last weekIt is fueled by far-right personalities. The protests began outside the Building and Construction Industry Union offices on Monday and roamed the city on Tuesday before ending on Wednesday at the Shrine of Remembrance, a monument to Australian soldiers.

They rallied against vaccine mandates, a two-week construction shutdown, and shutdowns in general. There have been hundreds of arrests and warnings of a super-spreading event, with Union employees who responded to the protesters were sent to quarantine.

The protests shook a city that was already at the end of its rope, and that was its time It was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, sarcastic on twitter: “No more apocalypse horses, please.” The city has had enough.

The anti-lockdown protests ended at the Memorial Shrine, a monument to Australian soldiers. Photo: Con Chronis/AFP/Getty Images

Celeste Liddell, a Melbourne-based writer and political candidate for the Green Party, says the earthquake – which brought down half a wall on Chapel Street – was a relatively harmless distraction from an endless cycle of bad news.

“I feel like there are a lot of people suffering, but mental health is only talked about sort of as a weapon to use against the government rather than the fact of endless lockdowns and the impact that social isolation can have.”

The Arrernte woman has lived in Melbourne for over 30 years. It has always been a vibrant city, the only 24-hour city in Australia.

“We often make fun of Sydney because for a city bigger than Melbourne, it doesn’t have anywhere near as much as the city in which it happens,” she says. “I wonder if Melbourne’s year-round miserable lifestyle, even when the weather, will recover again. I am a bit worried that after this, after so many businesses closed, a once vibrant city is going to die for a few years. It will take time. a long time to rebuild.

Melbourne’s booming arts sector has been the hardest hit and least supported industry since the pandemic began.

Kieran Wheatley was preparing to open a comedy club when Melbourne first shut down in March 2020. It opened in one weekend in July before returning to a tight lockdown.

The Victorian government has given a tentative date for entertainment venues to reopen on November 8, provided they keep crowds to one person per four square metres. That’s not enough clients to be able to survive, Wheatley says. He also worries that people will be less motivated to get out if the city reopens at thousands of cases per day, rather than zero.

Melbourne was hit by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake. Photography: Alexander Bogatyrev/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

“That’s the big uncertainty right now, not knowing how the city is going to respond to having Covid in everything around you,” he says.

Wheatley says that if he had known the city was going to shut down for two years, he wouldn’t have opened the club. But despite the setbacks, he is in favor of closure.

“The reason we’ve been in lockdown for so long is because we care about whether people are going to die,” he says. “We just choose to protect life — at a huge cost, a huge cost, but, as [Australian rapper] Briggs says, Ahem Nan.

Australia used to avoid the worst effects of a global catastrophe. But the expectation that a global pandemic will survive is unrealistic – something that has only been achieved in Australia’s most remote city.

“If our expectation is that we all live in Perth where nothing has changed, go to Perth,” says Wheatley.

The current outbreak began when a delta variety was transplanted into Melbourne from Sydney in July, inflaming already strained relations between the states of New South Wales and Victoria. On July 15 Andrews Fifth closure announced (who became sixth almost immediately) by saying: “These cases started in NSW, but I am determined they will end here.”

The Victorian Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, has officially given up hopes of zero daily Covid cases.
The Victorian Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, has officially given up hopes of zero daily Covid cases. Photo: Daniel Bouquet/AAP

He has spoken optimistically about past victories – Victoria has successfully stamped out two outbreaks with snap closures already this winter, and has reduced case numbers to zero. After a strict closure of 112 days last year.

But this time, the numbers continued to rise.

A failed federal start-up, and then the decision to shift available Pfizer doses to Sydney, which has been closed since June, were blamed for the slow start in the Victoria’s vaccine rollout, which accelerated in August.

Case numbers in NSW began stabilizing in mid-September, with the rate of vaccination increasing. The numbers in Melbourne are expected to follow suit, but Andrews clearly told the Victorians on Thursday that they would have reached those goals sooner had doses of mRNA vaccines been made available earlier.

Andrews also criticized the Victorians for flouting lockdown restrictions when the end was in sight.

“A lot of these cases could have been completely avoided,” he told reporters Thursday, at the highest daily number ever.

“Let’s not do [healthcare worker’s] Work harder by making really bad choices and going and visiting friends and friends and family and taking the virus with us.”

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