Sydney’s Covid response is too weak and letting Australia down

Photo by Loren Elliott/Reuters

Contributed from New South Wales

The big global lesson of the Covid-19 experience is that the best way to fight it is to go out to isolate the spread. This should be done as quickly as possible.

Countries that have gone down this road have achieved far better results. Where they haven’t, the impact of the pandemic has been far worse.

Among the biggest failures have been the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, and India.

There should be no argument abut it. This isn’t the case unfortunately, and the mistake keeps on being repeated.  

Australia’s response last year was slow to start. Thankfully it did pick up, and even though the quality was not in the global front ranks, it was not the worst either.

The most thorough response was in Victoria last year. It paid off. The arrival of Covid and its hitting Melbourne was no-one’s fault. Credit must be given to the extent of the lockdown and the creation of a ‘ring of steel’ around the city. Mask wearing was enforced, social distancing mad mandatory for all, travel limited to 5 kilometres, and even a night-time curfew was imposed. This may have been uncomfortable, but it was necessary.  

Contrast this with the response in Sydney this year. Lockdown was delayed. When circumstances forced it, the response was piecemeal, and it still is. A new record of  239 known infections has just hit.

Only a few local government areas have been put into lockdown. Conditions within these lockdown are less strict than they were in Melbourne. Working class and poorer neighbourhoods have been hit much harder than wealthier ones. This means the opportunities for transmission are much greater in Sydney.   It is the reason why the unmasked crowds in Bondi are at odds with what is going on elsewhere. Masks still don’t have to be worn outdoors.

Photo by Mark Evans/Getty: Meanwhile at Bondi

The failure to put a ring of steel around Sydney has helped to spread the infection across the state and into other parts of Australia.

The new wave and Delta variant of the virus were going to come. When it arrived, the degree of preparedness and willingness to respond adequately is what makes a the difference. The verdict on the NSW government is that  it is failing the nation.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian continues refuse to budge. Lockdowns have been extended by another four weeks  and there seems to be no end in sight.

The federal government is doing no better. It refuses to take national responsibility and had be dragged and embarrassed into restoring payments for these not able to work and earn a wage. How can a lockdown work, when people are being forced to break it to survive? Don’t mention the damage caused by the vaccine rollout failure.

A common thread is that business interests have been put at odds with health needs. Business has been the immediate priority It is short-sighted. The worse the response, the greater the damage to business in the longer run.

Taking the opportunity to militarise the response  the pandemic has been much quicker. Lieutenant General JJ Frewen has been put in charge the vaccine rollout, Australian Defence Force personnel are parting Sydney streets, and helicopters are flying over homes in the locked down suburbs.

There is concern that the pubic are being softened for an increased role of the military in civilian affairs. Militarisation of the Covid response is unnecessary anyhow.

It would be much better to enlist active public support. This requires building trust, listening, respect, and fairness, and Australian governments have proved to be bad at all of them. Perhaps this will be judged the biggest failure

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