It appears we now live in a COVID-19 world. The virus isn’t going away, in fact, it’s mutating. Like every flu season, many scientists predict there will be a COVID-19 season. We need to learn to live with the virus, not in fear of it.
Australia seems to be having a difficult time grasping this reality. It’s pursued a ‘zero-COVID’ strategy and is in total lockdown until 70% of its population is vaccinated. At 80%, statewide lockdowns will be eliminated and some international travel will be allowed. The country’s leaders have hinted that reopening could happen as soon as late October, but there are no promises. COVID-19 cases have surged to 750 per day in the past week in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Australia’s citizens are living in a police-run state. Scores have been arrested for attending anti-lockdown protests, where officers fire pellet guns and use pepper spray to disperse the crowds. Soldiers march through the streets to ensure nightly curfews are not violated. Compliance checkpoints have been assembled in local neighborhoods. Fines for breaking certain rules have risen to $3,700. Playgrounds have been closed; businesses shuttered. Economists predict Australia’s latest round of lockdowns will cost around $12.5 billion.
Its population is growing restless, but there’s not much that can be done from the confines of their residences.
Almost daily, videos emerge of law enforcement beating back those not wearing masks from entering pharmacies or grocery stores. Last week, a video went viral of an Australian cop running down a man with his squad car. The crime? Going for a stroll outside without donning a mask.
Australia appears to be going through its own Stanford Prison Experiment, where college students were separated into two groups: prison guards and prisoners in 1971. The psychology test had to be ended after only six days, as the student guards became increasingly sadistic, and its “prisoners” depressed and showing extreme signs of stress. Empower the man, and he will take more. Diminish the citizen, and they’ll learn to take less.
Yet, in some areas of the country, tensions are running high. This weekend, thousands of protesters turned up in Sydney’s city center, despite warnings and checkpoints by the police. In Melbourne, hundreds of people marched through the city, defying local authorities. And in Brisbane, thousands gathered in the city’s botanic gardens.
The country’s leaders are aghast. The virus continues to spread. Some of Australia’s Premiers have recently admitted even with very strict lockdowns and 99% public compliance, they cannot stop the delta variant.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try. Curfews have been extended, and residents are only allowed to leave their homes for essential activities like shopping for food and medicine or getting a vaccination.
Australia’s ‘Zero-COVID’ policy is draconian, irrational, anti-scientific, and a good example of elected leaders using the pandemic to flex their political power. Americans should take heed of what’s happening there – for it should never be allowed in this country.