State of Disaster
The Victorian Government put finding jobs for a few unskilled workers as a higher priority than creating hygienic, well-controlled quarantine facilities to protect the community from infectious overseas arrivals. It was an egregious error. The result has been catastrophic. Nearly 200 people have died as a consequence.
When I wrote about the quarantine fiasco on 29th June, I had no idea how bad it would get. The liberties and the livelihoods of five million people have been compromised as the government now acts to contain the problem they created. It is indeed a state of disaster.
They put the interests of the few above the common good. We trusted the earnest and urbane Dan Andrews to do the right thing. We assumed he was in charge. He now says he does not know how the decisions were made, nor who made them.
As a result of the quarantine fiasco, Victoria now has a major coronavirus problem. In the past six weeks, mainly in Melbourne but also spreading to regional Victoria and into New South Wales, there have been over 12,500 new cases (compared to 2,100 in the previous three months) and a further 190 deaths (compared to 20) linked to the failed quarantine system. More cases and more deaths are reported daily. The figures for Sunday 9th August were 394 new cases and 17 deaths.
There has been widespread disobedience. Hundreds of people diagnosed with COVID-19 have not been obeying the law to self-isolate and remain in their homes. Others have refused to wear masks.
To cope with the out-of-control spreading of the virus, the Victorian Government has implemented stage 4 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne putting 250,000 out of work. Hundreds of businesses have been forced to close.
A curfew has been decreed. Only essential workers are allowed out between 8:00pm and 5:00am.
Citizens are effectively under house arrest. Home visits by friends and relatives are forbidden. Exercise, for up to one hour, and shopping for essentials, is limited to once per day and must be within 5 kilometres of your home. Masks are mandatory.
Police and the Australian Defence Forces are patrolling the streets and parks, and visiting homes, to enforce the new laws and to impose on the spot fines on offenders - $4,957 for breaching the isolation rules!
The economic losses are huge, estimated at $13 to 18 billion. The Federal Government has committed a further $15 billion to extend its JobKeeper scheme to help employers to keep employees on the payroll.
In a most peculiar statement last Thursday, Premier Andrews said he had no idea who made the decisions that led to the quarantine disaster and that is why an inquiry was necessary. The inquiry will not report until November 6th.
The state of disaster lasts until September 13. What happens after that is unclear. Nor is the basis on which future decisions about regulations will be made.
The COVID-19 virus will be with us for a long while. We will need permanent quarantine facilities to protect us from overseas visitors and locals who acquire the disease but do not have adequate facilities to self-isolate at home without compromising their family or housemates. One hopes plans are underway to create such facilities.
It got worse. By 21 October, 2020, the number of deaths attributed to this failure of policy had risen to 817. Melbourne remained in lockdown.