A.Australia and New Zealand, with their low case numbers, have long been prime examples of successful virus containment. But with their comparatively low vaccination rates, the spread of the delta variant and increasingly strict lockdowns, the former success of the corona strategies there is fading. There is also growing displeasure among the population at the failure to obtain vaccines, for example, as well as frustration at the severe restrictions that are now in the eighth week in the largest city of Sydney. Except in Melbourne, there is now a night curfew in the rest of Victoria. In Sydney, the lockdown was extended to September and a night curfew was also imposed on some suburbs.
Protests, some of which were sharp, broke out in several cities in Australia at the weekend. In Melbourne, after clashes with the police on Saturday, more than 200 people were arrested and seven police officers were injured. At the same time, the country recorded 914 new cases, the highest number of new infections since the pandemic began. In New Zealand, the government admitted on Sunday that the once successful zero-covid strategy in times of Delta only works to a limited extent. New Zealand was taken by surprise by the rapid spread of the virus variant, said the minister responsible for combating corona, Chris Hipkins, the TVNZ. “That means our existing protections seem less adequate and robust,” said Hipkins. This raises “some big questions,” said the minister.
“Because the government was loitering”
Opposition leader Judith Collins also blamed the government for the slow progress of the vaccination campaign. “We are in lockdown because the government has been loitering protecting the New Zealanders,” said Collins. In New Zealand, 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The country went back into lockdown on Tuesday after a single corona case was detected for the first time in six months. In the course of the latest wave, 72 infections have now been discovered. In both Australia and New Zealand, the current problems are mainly attributed to the Delta variant, which cannot be compared with what one has previously had to deal with. Both countries are therefore working to accelerate their vaccination campaigns.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the strict containment policy once again on Sunday. “It’s always darkest before sunrise, and these tough lockdowns take a huge toll. Unfortunately, they are necessary for the time being, ”says Morris. But he combined the statement with a message that should give hope and motivate people to get vaccinated. According to a “national plan” that Canberra has concluded with regional governments, hard lockdowns should be a thing of the past when at least 70 percent of Australians have been vaccinated twice. At a rate of 80 percent, there should be further easing. However, the government has not yet explained the exact steps.
With currently around 24 percent, Australia is still a long way from achieving its goal. With the increasing vaccination rate, however, there is also a rethinking “Down Under”. In an interview, the prime minister said he considered it very unlikely that Australia could push the number of infected people down to zero again. However, the number of new infections every day, on which the local and national concepts in dealing with the pandemic had previously focused, appears to be an increasingly poor indicator anyway. “While our national strategy now necessarily revolves around suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, looking at the numbers one-sidedly overlooks the fact that fewer people are getting seriously ill or even dying,” said Morrison.
The Prime Minister therefore announced that the national response to the pandemic would be more oriented towards the number of seriously ill people and hospital occupancy in the future. “After all, that’s how we manage all other infectious diseases,” said Morrison. Australia is apparently taking a similar path to the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore, which was also one of the corona champions and, thanks to a vaccination rate of 74 percent, has now slowly started to gradually open it after strict lockdown measures. From September onwards, this also includes the lifting of the quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from Germany and the Sultanate of Brunei who come to the city-state on certain direct flights.