Rights and Freedoms

Lockdown Is All Your Fault, Folks

Written by
11 June 2021
Originally appeared in Herald Sun

IT’S your fault, Melburnians. Your selfish and reckless failure to get a Covid test every time you sneeze is the cause of the most recent lockdowns.

That is the message from Victorian Health Department boss Euan Wallace, who said Melburnians’ complacency caused Victoria’s fourth lockdown.

This is just like when Daniel Andrews blamed Victorian families for the outbreak in June last year, even as his government allowed thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters to take to city streets.

Rather than blaming the victim, Wallace could consider the extent to which the latest lockdown was a result of government policy – not just in relation to contact tracing and hotel quarantine failures.

Pursuing an elimination strategy was always going to fail. Zero Covid means zero freedom. There is no way of eliminating risk from any system that involves humans. Mistakes will always be made.

Research by the Institute of Public Affairs estimated that the pursuit of an elimination strategy at a national level would cost $319bn from 2020-22 . That’s more than double the annual value of Australia’s entire healthcare and social assistance sector.

More recent analysis estimated three jobs had been destroyed every minute of the latest lockdown. And the immense humanitarian and economic costs have led to lines outside psychology clinics rivalling only those outside Centrelink.

A much more sensible approach is to manage, rather than avoid, risk through measures that are proportionate. This means not locking down 6.6 million people in response to a handful of cases.

The NSW government has been far from perfect in its handling of the virus. But at least it doesn’t place residents under 23-hour-aday house arrest because someone hundreds of kilometres away may have walked past someone who may have had Covid. Instead, NSW has tolerated a small number of new daily cases of coronavirus without resorting to lockdowns.

Sydneysiders are not panicked or filled with anxiety. They don’t compulsively wear masks and rub their hands raw with industrial-grade hand sanitiser. And they talk about things other than the latest Covid news conference.

But it is much easier for health bureaucrats to keep pushing zero Covid because they are not the ones who suffer the consequences of lockdowns. In the second half of last year alone Victoria’s public servants pocketed an extra $1500 each, while their private sector counterparts were $1200 worse off.

Lockdowns are a lucrative business for some, it turns out.

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Daniel Wild

Daniel Wild is the Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs

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