Donuts have become a symbol of hope in Australia. Because the yeast rings covered with icing, spherical with a hole in the middle, look like the number zero. “Donut days” are therefore those days with zero new infections down under.
The analysis center “Covid Live” has been using donuts in its graphics since April when there are zero new corona cases to report. And that is not infrequently the case now. Australia’s recipe for success is not unusual: shut down the economy completely, relocate every job to the home office as far as possible, only leave the house for essential measures and a strict mask requirement.
In Melbourne, this successfully contained a second Covid-19 wave over the winter in the southern hemisphere. The second largest metropolis in Australia has now got the virus under control.
Closed external borders, a strict and expensive quarantine program for returnees from abroad and, in some cases, the isolation of the individual states also play a key role here. In return, the 25 million Australians accept that even citizens now have problems returning home from abroad.
Because the individual airports only allow a small number of passengers to enter each week. The already limited flight offers are getting more and more expensive and less and less. The Emirates airline has now discontinued all of its flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Travel within the country only with special permission
In addition, Australians are no longer allowed to move freely in their own country. For example, if you want to go from Sydney to Melbourne, you need a special permit. It has also become unpredictable how quickly individual regions can go into lockdown.
After a cleaner in Brisbane (Queensland) became infected with the new British virus variant in one of the quarantine hotels, the entire city was briefly put into a three-day lockdown.
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Especially with foreigners, the strict measures that tennis players who want to participate in the Australian Open are currently feeling painfully are not always well received. Groups have formed on Facebook that discuss the travel restrictions critically and in which people long to leave Covid-safe Australia – only to regain more “freedom” in their home country.
Most Australians, on the other hand, are extremely happy with the way their government is dealing with the pandemic, according to the latest survey by the Melbourne Institute. 60 percent were positive at the end of November. And science also applauds Australia’s zero policy.
In the event of new outbreaks, action is taken immediately
The three-day lockdown in Brisbane, for example, was “clear, decisive and well articulated,” wrote Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, in the science magazine The Conversation. In the three days, contact tracers were able to do their job and help authorities learn more about the nature of the outbreak.
The US top immunologist Anthony Fauci also praised the Australian strategy in November during an interview with the Australian broadcaster ABC. They locked up for a while, dropped to zero and now have a very good starting position, he said.
Because now contacts of infected people could be identified and isolated. In this way, before Christmas, Sydney managed to regain control of a cluster that had formed in one of the northern districts with a local lockdown. The special thing about it: The rest of the city lived on with minor restrictions. The metropolis now only reports a few cases.
“As much as we should be grateful for the good guidance shown by those who make decisions, real thanks should go to the community that followed the rules and made great sacrifices to get us to where we are now” said Vally.
Great willingness to do without
Indeed, the willingness of Australians to do without in order to protect the elderly and the sick and not to overload the health system is great. This was also confirmed by the director of the health program at the Grattan Institute, Stephen Duckett, in an interview with the local daily newspaper “The Age”.
Above all, the state of Victoria, which experienced a dangerous second wave in Melbourne, deserves a “gold medal” compared to other places. Only Singapore, China, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen were similarly good.
But how realistic is it that European countries can achieve similar success? According to Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Deakin University, Australia, people in the northern hemisphere actually have a harder time. Because autumn and winter would create favorable conditions for Covid-19 there.
More people would then gather indoors, and a lack of sunlight would allow the virus to survive longer on surfaces. Also, many people with symptoms would delay the test because they believed they had just one cold. The “more porous borders of Europe” are also a problem, said the expert.
Because in order for the Australian method to work, all necessary measures must be taken to turn off the transmission in the community, as Nick Coatsworth, an Australian health expert, pointed out in July when the corona numbers exploded in Melbourne.
The result was one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, which lasted over 100 days – and ultimately brought the numbers back to zero. True to the motto “If you don’t destroy this virus, it can destroy you,” Victoria’s health officer Brett Sutton tweeted in early November.