MELBOURNE, Australia – After more than 100 days under one of the longest and strictest locks in the world, residents of Australia’s second-largest city are facing a hard-won reprieve – but conditions underscore the deep global gap between the need to block the Covid pandemic. 19.
As of July 9, Melbourne residents have been barred from leaving their homes, except for a short time, for several reasons, including exercise and shopping for food within a three-mile radius. Offices and shops were mostly closed. Restaurants and cafes were only open for import or delivery orders. Night curfew was dropped only at the end of last month.
Now, with daily infections up to just two of the peak over 700 and three consecutive days without coronavirus death, Victoria̵
As of Monday, Melbourne’s five million residents will be able to travel up to 15 miles from home, and the two-hour outdoor exercise period will be abolished. Until November 1, shops and hotels, including restaurants, cafes and hairdressers, will be able to reopen with limited capacity. Weddings will be limited to 10 attendees, including the couple exchanging vows; funerals, at 20.
With many small business owners already on the brink, Victoria’s prime minister, Daniel Andrews, said the November 1 target could be moved forward if infection rates, measured by a moving average daily frequency of cases, fell by faster than expected. But he did not provide an update for industries such as construction, meat production and processing, many of which operated under capacity constraints.
Tough tactics underscore the different approaches that countries continue to take in the fight against the virus, as 2020 winds its way in recent weeks. Leaders in the United States and Europe are battling the resurgence of coronavirus infections. But they are also struggling to balance these concerns with the economic and social dislocations caused by the blockade.
Many public health officials now say there is no need for widespread blockade, nor is it likely to be complied with.
In Australia, however, public health officials are adhering to the aggressive, almost zero-tolerant approach to community transmission they have taken since the beginning of the pandemic. Even with the new relief, Mr Andrews emphasized that Melbourne’s exit from the blockade would remain cautious and gradual.
“These conclusions came with pain, damage and injury, but the strategy works,” Mr Andrews said during a televised briefing on Sunday. “This means that as other parts of the world enter a deadly winter, with locks and restrictions that break the heart,” Victoria can now “build a normal 2021 for Kovid,” he said.
Mr Andrews called for a direct comparison with the UK, which had a similar number of infections back in August, when daily cases in Victoria peaked at 725.
“Today, when Victoria registered two new cases, Britain reached 16,171,” he said. “And as we continue to ease our restrictions, they are forced to increase theirs.”
Melbourne’s restrictions went into effect after a breach of hotel quarantine protocols caused a second wave of infections this summer, when the rest of Australia was virtually virus-free. Officials initially tried a more targeted series of block restrictions, but imposed a hard block when they failed to control proliferation.
As a result of the outbreak, Victoria now accounts for 816 of 904 deaths in Australia and almost three quarters of all cases, according to official statistics.
Strict restrictions have reduced the rate of infection in Melbourne, but have also crippled a city that is usually ranked among the most habitable in the world. Business groups and political opponents have criticized the state’s response as unnecessarily burdensome with a disproportionate impact on the economy and social welfare.
“There’s no good reason to keep restrictions on business, especially when case numbers are clearly on a downward trajectory,” said Jennifer Westcott, chief executive of Australia’s Business Council. “Just being allowed to go for a haircut or a little more outside when you don’t have a job, you don’t have money and your business has failed is just not good enough.”
As Victoria accounts for about a quarter of Australia’s gross domestic product, restrictions have stretched across the country’s economy, which is in recession for the first time in almost 30 years.
And the grand final of the Australian Football Rules, the local equivalent of the Super Bowl, will be played next week outside Melbourne for the first time in its 123-year history.
Prolonged restrictions have led to public frustration and fatigue, contributing to small and sporadic public protests and legal challenges for small business owners over the validity of the lock.
Health experts and medical associations have broadly supported measures to control the Victoria government pandemic, but stressed the need to mitigate the serious mental health consequences of prolonged imprisonment and the associated loss of employment and social disunity, especially among young people and people. disadvantaged groups.
Greg Hunt, health minister in the Conservative national government of Australia, said federal figures show a 31% increase in Victorians who need mental health support over the past two months, compared to a 15% increase nationwide. The number of calls to the Beyond Blue mental health service was 90% higher in Victoria than in the rest of the country in August.
“The second wave that led to the blockade has had a huge impact on Victorian mental health and economic prospects,” said Josh Friedenberg, Australia’s treasurer.
A poll by the Roy Morgan poll company on October 14 showed that the prime minister’s approval rating remained stable at 59%, albeit by 11 percentage points from five weeks earlier.
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Mr Andrews, who leads the center-left Labor government, insisted that strong measures were needed to prevent a potentially worsening third wave of infections that would risk going beyond hospitals and requiring even longer shutdowns.
He said infection rate targets are based on supercomputer scenario modeling and extensive consultation with public health experts and are constantly weighed against economic and social pain. Many of the restrictions are likely to remain in place for at least a few more weeks.
“These are not easy decisions to make, there are many at stake,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday. “And if we do too much, too fast, then we will be where none of us ever wants to be again – we do it again, where we were.”
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