MELBOURNE, Australia – After more than 100 days under one of the longest and most severe blockades in the world, residents of Australia’s second largest city are receiving hard-earned denials – but these conditions underscore the deep global disagreement over whether to block. to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since July 9, Melbourne residents have been barred from leaving their homes, except for a short time, for several reasons, including exercise and shopping within a three-mile radius. Offices and outlets were mostly closed. Restaurants and cafes operated only for takeaway or delivery orders. The night curfew was lifted only at the end of last month.
Now that daily infections are reduced to just two from a peak of more than 700 and three consecutive days of no death from coronavirus, Victoria̵7;s health authorities, including Melbourne, are easing the strictest restrictions, while the overall lock remains tighter than those. prevailing almost anywhere else in the world.
Starting Monday, five million Melbourne residents will be able to drive no more than 15 miles to the house, and the two-hour limited time for outdoor activities will be abolished. Until November 1, shopping and hospitality facilities, including restaurants, cafes and hairdressers, will be able to reopen with limited capacity. The wedding will be limited to 10 participants, including a couple exchanging vows; funeral, about 20.
As many small business owners are already at a turning point, Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said the November 1 target date could be moved forward if the level of infection, as measured by the average daily average, decreases faster than expected. But he did not provide upgrades for industries such as construction, meat production and processing, many of which operated under capacity constraints.
Tough tactics underscore the different approaches that countries continue to take in the fight against the virus as 2020 approaches its final weeks. US and European leaders are battling a new outbreak of coronavirus infections. But they are also trying to balance these concerns with the economic and social dislocations caused by the blockades.
Many government officials are now saying that broad blockades are not needed and will not be heeded.
In Australia, however, public health officials have taken an aggressive approach to near-zero tolerance of community-based transmission since the beginning of the pandemic. Even with the new easing, Mr Andrews emphasized that Melbourne’s exit from the blockade would remain cautious and gradual.
“These blockades have come with pain, injury and pain, but the strategy works,” Mr Andrews said during a televised briefing on Sunday. “This means that while in other parts of the world a deadly winter is coming with blockages and stifling restrictions,” Victoria can now “build a normal 2021 for Kovid,” he said.
Mr. Andrews suggested a direct comparison with the United Kingdom, where the number of infections was the same in August, when the daily incidence in Victoria reached 725.
“Today, when Victoria registers two new cases, the UK has reached 16,171,” he said. “And as we continue to ease our constraints, they are being forced to increase theirs.”
Melbourne restrictions came into force after violations of hotel quarantine protocols caused a second wave of infections this year, when the rest of Australia was virtually virus-free. Officials initially tried a more targeted series of block restrictions, but imposed a tight blockade when they failed to contain the spread.
As a result of the outbreak, according to official statistics, Victoria now accounts for 816 out of 904 deaths in Australia and almost three quarters of all cases.
Strict restrictions have reduced the level of infection in Melbourne, but they have also crippled the city, which is usually on the list of the most livable in the world. Business groups and political opponents have criticized the state’s response as overly burdensome with a disproportionate impact on the economy and social welfare.
“There is no good reason to continue to restrict business, especially since the case numbers are clearly going down,” said Jennifer Vestacott, executive director of the Australian Business Council. “Just letting go for a haircut or a little more on the street when you don’t have a job, no money and your business has failed, it’s just not good enough.”
With Victoria accounting for about a quarter of Australia’s gross domestic product, restrictions have strained the country’s economy, which is in recession for the first time in almost 30 years.
And the grand final of Australian football rules, the local equivalent of the Super Bowl, will take place next week outside Melbourne for the first time in 123 years.
Prolonged restrictions have led to public frustration and fatigue, fostering small and sporadic public protests and legal challenges for small business owners over the validity of the blockade.
Health experts and medical associations have widely supported measures to combat the Victoria government pandemic, but stressed the need to mitigate the serious mental health consequences of long-term blockades and the associated job losses and social disruption. unity, especially among the young and disadvantaged. groups.
Greg Hunt, health minister for the Conservative Australian National Government, said federal figures had increased the number of Victorians in need of mental health support over the past two months, compared with a 15% increase nationwide. The number of calls to Beyond Blue’s mental health service was 90% higher in Victoria than in the rest of the country in August.
“The second wave that led to the blockade has severely affected Victorians’ mental health and economic prospects,” said Josh Freidenberg, Australia’s treasurer.
A poll conducted on October 14 by the Roy Morgan poll showed that the Prime Minister’s approval rating remained stable at 59%, albeit by 11 percentage points compared to five weeks earlier.
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Mr Andrews, who heads the center-left Labor government, insists that tough measures be taken to prevent a potentially worsening third wave of infections, which could threaten the spread of hospitals and force them to stop working even longer.
According to him, the targets of infection are based on the modeling of supercomputer scenarios and extensive consultations with health experts, as well as constantly weighed against economic and social pain. Many of the restrictions are likely to remain in place for at least a few more weeks.
“The decision is not easy, there is a lot at stake,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday. “And if we do too much, too fast, then we find ourselves where none of us ever wants to be again – to do it again, where we were.”
Write Philip Wen at email@example.com
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