While large parts of the world leave the lockdowns behind, Australia is still locked. At the moment, millions of people are in lockdown, while there are only a few hundred infections per day across the country.
“It feels like I‘m trapped in my own home while I didn’t do anything wrong,” says Mark Bannister. He lives in a neighborhood in western Sydney. His apartment building was shut down from one time to another a few days ago, as a number of residents are infected with the coronavirus.
Dozens of residents were locked in their homes without warning. “I was about to buy diapers for my son and bottle feeding for the baby. But the police stood at the front door and said we shouldn‘t leave the building,” Bannister says.
It’s not the first time people in Australia are obliged to quarantine. It‘s part of the rigorous policy to mitigate corona infections. Schools are closed, residents are only allowed to go outside for shopping, exercise for up to two hours and stay within five kilometers of their home. Mouth masks are mandatory everywhere.
In addition to the police, the military is also involved in maintaining the lockdown. Soldiers patrol western Sydney and help police enforcement. “I found it pretty intimidating at first, but they’re there to protect us,” one resident says.
The population largely supports this policy. Many Australians believe that eradicating the virus is the only solution, so they accept the strict lockdowns and boundaries that have been closed for a year and a half.
According to political scientist and sociologist Tim Soutphommasane of the University of Sydney, that acceptance has a historical explanation. “Australian identity is characterised by a strong need for protection. People fear outside threats, believing that strict border security is the way to keep out danger.”
Strict border security is not strange to Australia. The country has been known for its hard immigration policy for years. Refugees coming by boat are returned linea recta, or end indefinitely in camps on islands such as Nauru and Manus.
“I don‘t think the rest of the world understands why we’re doing it that way. But many Australians feel comfortable at closed borders and living in some sort of fort Australia,” says Soutphommasane.
Thanks to these measures, the country was a corona free port for a long time. The population was safe and there was no hurry to vaccinate. Now it turns out that they are not able to withstand the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, the dissatisfaction with that slow vaccination campaign is growing.
“That zero covid strategy has led to pride,” says Stephen Duckett, head of the health program at the Australian think tank Grattan Institute. “Both government and population. The government has waited too long to start the vaccination program. Subsequently, the campaign went totally wrong.”
Australia is also being demonstrated against the corona measures, as here on July 24th:
Initially, the government thought it had sufficient for the Astrazeneca vaccine that is also produced in Australia. But because of worries about the side effects, this vaccine was not recommended for people under sixty years of age. While three million doses were dusted in a shed, more and more parts of the country went into lockdown. The advice has now been updated and everyone can choose to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca.
70 percent vaccination
Although the population is increasingly suffering from lockdowns, the government is holding on to policy. Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to ease the measures until at least 70 percent of the population has been vaccinated. Now the counter stands at more than 20 percent.
“We have accomplished what many other countries failed,” Morrison said last week. “We have to hold on now and don‘t just throw away everything we’ve accomplished because we‘re impatient.”
Fort Australia remains under lock and key for the time being. According to Soutphommasane, this causes more and more pressure and stress for the population. “In 2020, Australia might have been a success story, but it hasn’t been a long time ago.”