Victoria has become famous for using lockdowns to ‘defeat coronavirus.’ Dr Anthony Fauci mentioned Australia as a country that did “quite well”. We haven’t defeated the virus. The virus is at bay but the only thing truly defeated is Victoria and Victorians.
The state last week got out of its second lockdown of the year. Just like you were told yours will only last one month, we were told it would last six weeks. It lasted 112 days.
Like Brits are about to re-experience, all non-essential retail and hospitality have been closed, businesses have been shuttered and we have been cut off from friends and family. At the lockdown’s peak we were only allowed out of our homes for one hour a day between 5am and 9pm.
Cases have come down, but what has exploded is a mental health and economic crisis that will take this state decades to recover from.
Melbourne has been declared the world’s most liveable city six out of the last seven years by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Now look at what 112 days of lockdown has done to this city and the state.
Victoria lost more than 1,000 jobs a day through this second lockdown. Since lockdown strategies began in March, 696,000 jobs have been destroyed in Victoria, according to Institute of Public Affairs research. Given that 3.3 million Victorians are employed, those job losses are equivalent to 21% of the Victorian workforce.
Streets that once boasted the country’s best culture and nightlife are empty. Shops that displayed cutting-edge fashion, antique goods or any matter of personality now simply hang ‘For Lease’ signs.
The mental health figures are just as concerning. Victorians have been cut off from so many things that make life worth living these 112 days. We have been banned from seeing friends who live further than five kilometres away from us (it’s now ‘only’ 25 kilometres), we could not visit family or friends in their homes, or walk in groups of more than two – and even then only once per day. The effects have been devastating.
In the last two months calls to the mental health support hotline Beyond Blue are 77% higher in Victoria than in the rest of the country. Most disturbing, hospitalisations for attempted suicides are up 6% from last year – and for those aged 17 and under the increase is 31.3%.
Now that the state is finally starting to take steps towards opening up, a new fear has come forward: the deep fear that we will return to lockdown again.
This is a fear we share. Boris Johnson promised that Britain would never return to lockdown – that promise is now broken. He has promised this new lockdown is only for a month, but how can Britons believe that now?
Victoria’s freedom relies on our state’s contract tracing team, whose incompetence meant the government did not feel it was safe to ease restrictions even when daily new cases was as low as seven per day. There will be another outbreak in the state, it is inevitable. If the team fails, we go back to lockdown.
Our two countries are destined to spiral in and out of lockdown until a vaccine arrives, always fearful that at any time the government can take away our livelihoods.
This is the warning from Victoria. This state is a shell of the vibrant place it was, and its people live in constant fear. Britain is about to follow the same path.
Johnson is following this path as he believes that lockdown is the only remaining weapon he has against this virus. But it isn’t.
It’s not even the best one. Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy on Covid-19, said to Andrew Neil last month: “We really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method.”
Why? Because “lockdowns have one consequence that you can never belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”
Lockdowns destroy livelihoods, throw people out of work, spark mental health crises and make poor people poorer. Meanwhile, treatment of coronavirus is improving.
A new paper accepted for publication in the journal Critical Care Medicine tracked mortality rates from Covid-19 in the UK. “In late March, four in 10 people in intensive care were dying. By the end of June, survival was over 80 percent,” said the paper’s author John M. Dennis, a University of Exeter Medical School researcher. It is now November, so Britain’s medical experts have spent another four full months learning more about this virus.
Sending Britain into another lockdown means Johnson is ignoring the steps Britain’s medical community has made in limiting the virus’s threat. He has chosen to send all of Britain into another lockdown rather than isolate and support those for whom the virus is still life-threatening.
And Britons will have their way of life destroyed. Let’s hope Johnson keeps to his word just once and only locks down for a brief period of time, and not 112 days. But that’s what we were told too.