They haven’t started welding people’s apartment doors shut yet but they’re inching ever closer to the Wuhan model of virus containment, as you’ll see in the clip below.
I’ve written before about Australia’s “zero COVID” strategy, one born partly of design and partly of necessity. They’ve spent the past 18 months slipping in and out of grinding lockdowns to limit transmission with spectacular success, recording fewer than 45,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths since March 2020. The flaw in their approach is that they’ve dragged their feet on vaccination for a variety of reasons, leaving the population with virtually no immunity by the time Delta finally hopped the ocean and began circulating there.
They’re now desperately scrambling to get people immunized knowing that lockdowns can’t go on forever. “We will live with this virus, like we live with other infectious diseases,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the country yesterday, insisting that they need to “move forward” … once they get 70-80 percent of Australians vaccinated. But they’re a long, long way from that:
I hate to break the news to him but 70-80 percent for herd immunity is an outdated pre-Delta estimate. With a hyper-contagious new strain around, the estimates I’ve seen lately are north of 90 percent, a figure so high that some scientists have taken to urging bureaucrats to forget about herd immunity as a plausible goal for the vaccination campaign. We’ll get there eventually but we’ll do it the hard way via natural immunity building among the unvaccinated. Fortunately for us, many millions of Americans had already caught COVID in the past and recovered, giving them a measure of protection against Delta. Not so in Australia.
Which leaves us to wonder how they’re going to get out of this without a surging body count.
Here’s the clip that’s gone mega-viral today, replete with news of a manhunt for an infected COVID patient whose whereabouts are unknown. Kids drinking in the open air after dark? Also highly forbidden under COVID curfew rules, with cops swooping in to make the bust. This video feels like a news report conjured by the imagination of a hardline American lockdown opponent, convinced that police goon squads are cracking down ruthlessly on socializing when in reality we can’t even get our own officers to take the vaccine. The zero-tolerance approach really is happening in Australia, though:
It's those people doing the wrong thing, driving our record case numbers.
Among the most concerning – a COVID-19 patient – on the run tonight from one of our hotspots tonight. Police and health authorities have issued an urgent appeal. @tiffgenders #9News pic.twitter.com/gJAIYVljZT
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) August 21, 2021
The lockdown rules in New South Wales at the moment are no joke. Again, not quite Wuhan, but still:
“Greater Sydney’s lockdown will be in place until the end of September, at least,” 9 News reports. Parents are already bracing for home-schooling for the rest of the year. Authorities are so serious about having people avoid unnecessary interactions that they’ve urged those from different households not to converse when encountering each other outdoors.
One has to go very, very far in a culture as cautious as theirs to cross the line from diligence to overzealousness in enforcing COVID protocols but someone finally did. Aussies draw the line at shooting dogs. Maybe:
Several impounded dogs due to be rescued by a shelter have instead been shot dead by a rural council in NSW under its interpretation of COVID-19 restrictions, alarming animal activists and prompting a government probe.
Bourke Shire Council, in the state’s north-west, killed the dogs to prevent volunteers at a Cobar-based animal shelter from travelling to pick up the animals last week, according to council’s watchdog, the Office of Local Government.
“OLG has been informed that the council decided to take this course of action to protect its employees and community, including vulnerable Aboriginal populations, from the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” a spokesman from the government agency said.
The spokesman said the agency was examining the circumstances of the incident to find out whether companion animal and cruelty prevention laws had been broken.
Reading all of the above, you might assume that cases in Australia from Delta are at crisis levels. Yes and no:
They’ve never had more cases than they’re seeing right now but the total number is still just 700 on average in a country of 26 million. Adjusted for population, that would be around 10,000 daily cases in the U.S. On Friday we recorded 199,000.
On the other hand, the sooner mitigation measures are taken, the slower the virus will spread. The drapes have caught fire and Australia’s trying to put it out before the living room and then the entire house goes up. Again, the Aussies don’t have nearly as much population-wide immunity as we do right now. Their vaccination clusterfark has left them in a position where they’re realistically facing an India scenario if they don’t try to extinguish Delta by any means necessary. Here in the United States it’s probably the case that 70 percent or more are protected to some degree against Delta via vaccination or natural immunity and yet hospitals in many states are still overloaded with COVID patients. Imagine what would happen to hospitals in a country like Australia, where maybe 30 percent are protected, if Delta really started to burn there.
What a nightmare. I’ll leave you with this report of another major Australian police bust that was made possible by a hot tip to, ahem, CrimeStoppers.
A tip to Crime Stoppers has blown the lid on a church service at #Blacktown, attended by 60 adults and children.
The gathering has been described as selfish and arrogant, as cases in the suburb surged.
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) August 23, 2021