The Dangerous Dream of Zero COVID in Australia
We often hear that “if it saves just one life, it must be worth it,” no matter the cost. But COVID lockdowns have a considerable cost—not just to the economy, but to liberty and, yes, to lives. Australians have been learning the hard way that the “zero COVID” strategy is impossible. We must learn to live with acceptable risks.
The city of Sydney is in week 12 of a harsh lockdown that has seen residents in the worst-affected areas confined to their homes 23 hours a day, with just 60 minutes permitted outside for exercise. When people do venture out, it must be between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
In other parts of Sydney, life is a little easier. People can go out for an early-morning or late-night run, but must stick to a roughly three-mile radius from their home. With the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout food and coffee, everything is closed. There have been ripples of protest, but police have promptly shut them down, with organizers facing jail sentences and participants forced to pay millions in fines.
In Melbourne, the government has closed playgrounds and told residents not to watch the sunset. When protestors gathered, police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse them. A child holding a sign saying “let me play” received a face full of pepper spray.
Melbourne was once voted among the world’s most livable, desirable cities. Now it’s best known for being one of the world’s most locked-down cities: More than 225 days and counting of police checking if residents have a reasonable excuse to leave their homes. The federal and state governments have begun to admit the “zero COVID” strategy is unachievable and is limping towards some kind of reopening.
Queensland and Western Australia are both vast states with very low population density. But both have closed their borders to anyone who isn’t rich or famous. Rugby and Aus
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