A sign expressing frustration with Australia’s pandemic strategy is displayed in Annandale’s vintage shop window
“Dear Customers, we will be closed for foreseeable future because Scott Morrison, a useless dickhead, only ordered enough vaccines to vaccinate 44% of the population 18-months into a pandemic,” the sign reads. It was shared via Twitter and refers to the Australian Prime Minister.
The testy sign was put up by James Powditch at his Roulette store and studio on Saturday as the city of five million and the surrounding towns went into another lockdown for two weeks. On Sunday, 110 cases of the Delta variant coronavirus infection had been reported in Sydney’s Bondi neighborhood.
Australia was praised for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for its ability to get its economy back on track.
However, security has been accompanied by complacency. This is especially true for the federal government which failed to secure sufficient vaccine doses to stop the “circuit breaker” lockdowns that occur every few cases or the longer restrictions Sydney is currently experiencing. Australia’s borders have been closed for over a year, despite strict quarantine measures.
Australians are now wondering if this will continue after they have enjoyed their early successes.
Powditch stated, “We can’t leave this country, people cannot come in, and we end regularly in lockdowns which cost a friggin’ fortune.”
“People have accepted that this is a difficult situation. But once we begin to see the rest of the globe open up, we will start to feel anger at the way vaccines are being rolled out here.”
Already, there are signs that Australians have grown tired of the sporadic interruptions to their lives. On Sunday, large numbers were seen at Bondi Beach despite stay-at-home orders. Although outdoor exercise is permitted, Bondi images showed people enjoying the winter sun while sitting on benches and sipping drinks.
After four Covid-19 cases were connected to a worker at an Australian gold mine, a 48-hour lockdown was also put in place in Australia’s Northern Territory. It is believed that he contracted the disease while he was staying at a Brisbane quarantine hotel. As Australia relies on a strong track-and-trace system, it is now making efforts to locate all the 900 workers who left the mine to travel to cities around Australia.
Australia has had just 910 deaths from its 25 million population. This is one of the lowest death rates in the developed world. The cases have also remained low.
It beat the rest of the world in getting its economy back on track, but its tourism sector is suffering. Universities are struggling to pay international students’ fees, and many Australians who have traveled extensively abroad are beginning to yearn for holidays overseas.
Even New Zealand, the only country with which Australians have an open travel corridor, announced that it would suspend quarantine-free travel between the countries starting Saturday due to the outbreaks.
According to Our World in Data, Australia has vaccinated just 4% of its population. This compares with 46% in the US and 47% in Britain. Its rates are comparable to those of India and Indonesia, which, like many developing countries, were not included in the agreements that allowed pharmaceutical companies to provide vaccines for hundreds of millions of people.
The problem is compounded by a lack of interest in Covid-19 vaccines in Australia. A survey conducted by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Resolve Strategic found that 15% of respondents were not at all likely to get vaccinated in the next few months. 14% were not very likely. After an April ruling that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine had been linked to a rare blood disorder, it was time for the survey.
Officials from Australia have stated that they want to achieve herd immunity, which is the level at which approximately 80% of the population has been vaccinated before opening their borders. Morrison had previously stated that this may not happen until mid-2022. He was even less able to make a commitment to a Christmas 2022 opening.
On Thursday, Channel 9’s Today broadcast suggested that the lockdowns were caused by Morrison’s slow vaccine rollout and his questioning of the Prime Minister.
Morrison responded by saying that an increase in supply would “really kick in next month, July” and that 600,000.00 Pfizer doses were due next week.
AstraZeneca has been our biggest challenge. The medical advice has made it unavailable to people over 60 years old, and previously to those who were over 50. He said that this was a major shock to the rollout, and they were events beyond the government’s control.” He added that there were new supply agreements with Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
He said, “So, we’ll continue working towards that goal by the end of this year of offering that vaccine for everybody who would like one, and there will be an increasing ramp-up as the second half of year,” he added.
You can’t get in, you can’t get outside
The government has been criticized for leaving 36,000 Australians overseas. Booking seats on flights has become difficult and costly due to restrictions on entry. Quarantine costs can run into the thousands. It is the responsibility of the person arriving in the country to pay the bill.
For those living in Australia, it’s equally difficult to leave. A government exemption is required to allow someone who has Australian citizenship or permanent residency to leave the country.
It’s not only holidays gone, it’s also lost time with friends and family.
The last census of 2016 revealed that around half of the Australian population was either born in Australia or had at least one parent who was born abroad.
A Brisbane resident, who is from Canada, works in a hospital as a health care worker. He hopes a faster vaccine program will reduce border controls and allow him to return home.
“I am originally from Canada and I don’t know when my family will see me again.” “Honestly, I believe at least two years,” said the health care worker in a message sent to CNN.
“We are so frustrated!” It is absurd how the vaccination process works. I am a top-ranking health care worker and the process was confusing. We were instructed to email her and she would contact us when our appointment was. Then, we were told to just show up because the program wasn’t recording anything.” She said.
“It’s still not available to people 50+, even though spreaders average 20-30 years old. We are sick of locking downs and know that the vaccine is available.
For some residents who have strong ties to abroad, this isolation can have more serious consequences.
Katerina Vavrinec (a 34-year old Czech Republic woman living in Sydney) said that she sought counseling for mental health issues stemming from her separation from her family and the anxiety that it has brought. For three years, she hasn’t been back to Prague, her hometown.
She said that keeping borders closed will have a significant impact on mental health, pointing out the high proportion of Australians who have family ties abroad. “So this will have a huge impact on millions of people’s mental health.”
Vavrinec is currently on maternity leave. She will return to work in less than a week. However, she’s not certain what lockdown will look like. She has a silver lining.
“I am actually happy that we are in lockdown because I was frustrated by the indefinite border closings. I hope that people realize that isolating Australia completely from the rest of the world will not get us out of this.