The premier of the state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announced even stricter stage four lockdown restrictions on August 2, which will continue until September 13.
The rest of the world is watching Melbourne, the country’s second most populated city, experience some of the toughest lockdown restrictions in the world as it tries to address a spike in COVID-19 cases.
These restrictions are guided by Australia’s pandemic response model which indicates that “the virus can be suppressed only if more than 70% of the population abides by social distancing guidelines and other public health rules.”
But apparently, this hasn’t been the case. “This is not over, and pretending that it is because we all want it to be over is not the answer — it is indeed part of the problem,” Premier Andrews said.
53% of people who felt ill didn’t quarantine themselves while waiting for their test results.
According to Andrews, “almost nine out of 10 people with COVID-19 had not been tested or isolated when they first felt sick.” And 53% of people who felt ill didn’t quarantine themselves while waiting for their test results. Even some diagnosed with an active COVID case didn’t seriously quarantine — a door-to-door campaign checking in on 3,000 COVID patients discovered that 800 were not home. (These 800 people are now being investigated by the Victoria police and could be fined up to $3,532.)
Stage 4 Lockdown Restrictions
Residents are only permitted to leave their homes for four reasons:
Shopping for food and essential items. Residents must shop within 5 kilometers of their home, or at the closest store to them. Only one person per household can go shopping per day. They can’t hire workers to come to their house to landscape or to renovate — unless it’s for an emergency, like a burst pipe.
Care and caregiving. Residents can leave their homes to take care of people or animals. They can leave to visit someone they’re in an “intimate personal relationship” with. They can also leave to escape domestic violence or to seek medical services.
Exercise. Residents are limited to one hour of exercise per day, and it must be done within 5 kilometers of their home. Residents can’t leave town to go golfing, fishing, or hiking. Community pools and playgrounds are also closed.
Work. Residents can leave to go to work, but employers must permit them to work from home where possible. Residents are also required to get a permit from their employer proving they can leave their home for work.
Additionally, there’s a curfew inside Melbourne between 8pm and 5am. Residents are not permitted to leave town to stay at their vacation property elsewhere. Outsiders can’t travel to Melbourne unless it’s for one of the above reasons. Masks are required when leaving the house.
There’s a curfew inside Melbourne between 8pm and 5am.
Special events are also canceled or extremely limited. Weddings are off, and funerals are limited to 10 people. Vacation and camping venues are also forced to close. Restaurants can only provide takeout and delivery services.
Andrews said “common sense” would guide how the new rules are enforced. The Victoria police will supervise traffic leaving the city, as well as enforce the restrictions within the city. The police can issue fines ranging from $200 to $1,652 for individual citizens who don’t comply with the restrictions.
Do These Restrictions Infringe on Civil Liberties?
Think-tank The Institute of Public Affairs thinks so, calling the restrictions “the greatest incursion into our basic liberties ever on Australian soil.” James Newbury, MP for Brighton, calls it a “police state.”
Victorians are concerned that the declared State of Disaster gives the police inordinate power, “including the ability to seize private property, enter people's homes, and stop them in the street.” According to the Daily Mail, the Victoria Police issued 276 fines for breaking restrictions between August 8-9, including one to a man who went out after curfew to buy cigarettes.
Furthermore, the Australian federal treasury predicts that 400,000 citizens will be forced out of work, which will likely lead to increased rates of suicide, poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
400,000 citizens will be forced out of work.
John Roskam, Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, claims, “'The Andrews Government hasn't provided the evidence that shutting down thousands of Victorians businesses and destroying hundreds of thousands of lives is justifiable. Many of the Victorian government's rules they have made up are arbitrary, are illogical, and are counter-productive. It is not clear that many of these measures are proportionate to the health risk.”
Those of us watching the strict lockdown play out in Melbourne are probably thinking, “Thank goodness that isn’t happening here,” followed by, “What if that happens here?” Navigating the coronavirus scene — the unknowns, the information, the disinformation, the lockdowns, the reopenings, the surges — often feels like a national game of pin the tail on the donkey. Hopefully, America will watch Melbourne’s turn and figure out a better way to play.