Yesterday was DAY 32 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
After an initially sluggish response, Australia now joins New Zealand as one of the leading countries in the war on COVID19. Although the “lucky country” has a population 5.1x that of New Zealand, its death rate has per head of population been at a slightly lower rate to that of New Zealand. On 26 April the New Zealand death toll stood at 18; the Australian death toll at just under 90. The number of cases per capita has had a similar trend. Compared to New Zealand’s 1470 as at 26 April, Australia has recorded about 6800.
Initially Australia did not seem to be taking the matter as seriously as New Zealand and it – rightly or wrongly – suffered considerable criticism as a result. Multiple times, despite the risk at that point being well advertized there were reports of large numbers of people at popular leisure spots such as Bondi Beach in Sydney. State Governors and health officials warned the public that if they continued to ignore the warnings much more stringent, large scale stay-at-home orders would be implemented.
For the most part, Australia seems to be complying. Unlike the catastrophic bush fire season of 2019-2020 where the Government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison was blasted both domestically and internationally for its lacklustre response to huge fires ravaging large tracts of the eastern seaboard, the individual State Governments and Federal Government appear to be working together. On 28 March 2020 Australia recorded 454 cases of COVID19; on 26 April 2020 22 cases were recorded.
Like New Zealand and elsewhere there are proponents of Australia going back to work quickly, despite the risk posed by COVID19. Just a few days ago 150 scientists wrote to the Federal Government warning them of the dangers that go with loosening the restrictions too soon.
We need to – and I am pleased to see this happening – start co-ordinating with Australia a phased reopening of our economies and borders. We might have been poles apart on the bush fire response, but Australia is definitely proving to be one of the brighter stars in the COVID19 sky and New Zealand should be grateful for that and encourage them on their way. This is all the more important since it looks like more distant (geographically and COVID19-wise)friends like Britain, the United States and Singapore are not as far out of the proverbial woods as we would like to think. For a while we might have to accept a closed international bubble limited to Australia, New Zealand, maybe Taiwan and also our Pasifika neighbours.
Does that mean thing are going perfectly? No. Australia, like New Zealand and other countries, is facing internal calls to be done with the restrictions, despite the fact that they are still – like New Zealand and other countries – recording dozens of cases a day as well as deaths. But fortunately our trans-Tasman neighbours seem not to be suffering protests by gun toting anti-Government demonstrators like the United States, or demonstrations such as those happening in Berlin and other German cities.