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Australia Covid: Sydney in lockdown, borders closed, hardlly anyone vaccinated

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In the window of a vintage shop in the Sydney suburb of Annandale, a sign expresses the frustration of many Australians with their country's pandemic strategy.

"Dear Customers, We will be closed for the foreseeable future because Scott Morrison is a useless dickhead who only ordered enough vaccine to vaccinate 4% of the population 18 months into a pandemic," reads the sign, shared on Twitter, in reference to the Australian Prime Minister.

Artist James Powditch put up the testy sign at the Roulette store and art studio he runs on Saturday, as the city of 5 million people, plus towns and cities in its surrounds, went into yet another hard lockdown, this time for two whole weeks. By Sunday, a cluster of coronavirus infections of the Delta variant that began in Sydney's Bondi neighborhood had grown to 110 cases.

Australia was celebrated for its initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and for getting its economy more or less back on track long ago.

But with that security has come complacency, particularly in the federal government, which failed to secure enough vaccine doses to prevent the regular "circuit breaker" lockdowns that come every time a handful of cases emerge, or even the longer restrictions that Sydney is experiencing now. Australia's borders, controlled by strict quarantine measures, have been all but shut for more than a year.

Now Australians, who basked in their early successes, are wondering how much longer this can go on.

"We can't leave the country, people can't come in, and we end up periodically in lockdowns, which cost a friggin' fortune," said Powditch.

"People have been accepting that this is a diabolically difficult situation, but once we start watching the rest of the world open up, we're going to turn to anger over the way things like vaccines have been rolled out here."

Already there are signs that Australians are getting weary of these sporadic disruptions to their lives. On Sunday, large crowds were seen on Bondi Beach, despite the stay-at-home orders. While outdoor exercise is allowed, images from Bondi showed people bathing in the winter sun and sitting on benches with drinks.

A 48-hour lockdown was also imposed in parts of Australia's Northern Territory, including its capital, Darwin, after four Covid-19 cases were linked to a worker at a gold mine. He is believed to have become infected during an overnight stay at a quarantine hotel in Brisbane. Now painstaking efforts to trace all 900 workers who have left the mine for cities across Australia over recent days are under way, as the country relies heavily on a robust track-and-trace system to keep clusters contained.

Vaccine hesitancy

Australia has recorded just 910 deaths in its population of 25 million, one of the lowest per capita death tolls in the developed world, and cases have remained low as well.

While it beat much of the world in getting its economy back up and running, its tourism sector has taken a massive hit, its universities are struggling without the fees international students usually bring and some Australians, who travel abroad in relatively high numbers, are starting to feel the itch to go on holidays overseas.

Even New Zealand -- the only country with which Australians had an open travel corridor -- announced a three-day suspension of quarantine-free travel between the nations starting Saturday because of the outbreaks.

Australia has fully vaccinated just over 4% of its population, compared with more than 46% in the US and 47% in the UK, according to Our World in Data. Its rates are more comparable with Indonesia and India, which, like much of the developing world, were left out of the agreements with pharmaceutical companies that secured hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for most of the rich world.

Compounding the problem is hesitancy towards Covid-19 vaccines in Australia. One survey by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, with research firm Resolve Strategic, found 15% of adults surveyed were "not at all likely" and 14% were "not very likely" to take a vaccination in the months ahead. The survey was taken after an April ruling that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to a very rare blood disorder side effect, involving blood clots.

Australian officials have said they hope to reach herd immunity -- the point at which about 80% of the population is vaccinated -- before reopening its borders. Prime Minister Morrison earlier said that may not be until mid-2022. More recently, he was even unable to commit to a Christmas 2022 reopening.

In a question to the Prime Minister, journalists on Channel 9's Today program on Thursday suggested that Morrison and his slow vaccine rollout were responsible for the ongoing lockdowns.

Morrison replied by saying an increase in supply "will really kick in next month in July," and that 600,000 Pfizer doses were due in next week.

"The challenge we've had, of course, has been with AstraZeneca. I mean, the medical advice has restricted its availability to those over 60, and prior to that over 50. Now, that was a big shock to the rollout and they are events outside of the government's control," he said, adding there were new supply arrangements with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.

"So, we'll keep working towards that goal, by the end of the year, of offering that vaccine to everybody who would want one and there will be an escalating ramp-up as we move through the second half of the year," he said.

Can't get in, can't get out

The government has also been criticized for leaving about 36,000 Australians stranded overseas. Caps on arrivals to the country have made booking seats on flights difficult and expensive, and the cost of quarantine is in the thousands of dollars. It's the responsibility of the person arriving to foot the bill.

It's just as hard for some living in Australia to get out. If someone from overseas has Australian citizenship or permanent residence, they need a government exemption to leave the country.

The result is not just holidays lost, but lost time with family and friends.

At the last census in 2016, around half the people living in Australia were either born abroad or had at least one parent born overseas.

One Brisbane resident from Canada, who is working in a hospital in health care, is hoping a speedier vaccine program will mean fewer border controls and, hopefully, a trip back home.

"I'm originally from Canada, and don't know when I will see my family again. Honestly, I think at least 2 years," the health care worker wrote in a message to CNN.

"We're so frustrated! The vaccination process is ridiculous. I'm a health care worker in the top list of people and there was so much confusion. We were told to email and that we'd be contacted when our appointment was ... then we're told just to show up because that program was actually not recording anything," she said.

"It's still only open to [people age] 50+ even though spreaders are averaging 20-30 years of age. We're sick of lockdowns, knowing the vaccine is out there."

And for some residents with strong ties abroad, there are more serious implications to this global isolation.

Katerina Vavrinec, a 34-year-old from the Czech Republic living in Sydney, said she has sought counseling for mental health issues arising from the separation from her friends and family, and the anxiety that has come with it. She hasn't been to her home city of Prague for three years.

"Keeping borders shut is going to have a huge impact on people's mental health," she said, pointing to the high number of Australians with family ties overseas. "So this is going to have huge impact on the mental health of millions of people."

Vavrinec is on maternity leave and due to return to work in just over a week, though she's not sure what that will look like in lockdown. But she's found a silver lining.

"I'm actually quite happy that we're in lockdown because I've been quite frustrated with the indefinite border closures. So I'm hoping that the lockdown forces people to realize that completely isolating Australia from rest of the world is not going to get us out of this."

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/us/australia-covid-sydney-in-lockdown-national-borders-closed-and-hardly-anyone-vaccinated-how-long-can-the-country-go-on/ar-AALvKMj?li=AAggNb9

 

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"Dear Customers, We will be closed for the foreseeable future because Scott Morrison is a useless dickhead who only ordered enough vaccine to vaccinate 4% of the population 18 months into a pandemic."

Lol. No beating around the bush there!

 

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Perth joins Sydney and Darwin in lockdown

Three Australian capital cities are in COVID-19 lockdown with Perth joining Sydney and Darwin overnight after another confirmed virus case in the west.

A four-day stay-at-home order for Perth and the neighbouring Peel region started at midnight, just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new measures in the coronavirus battle.

A man in his 30s is the latest case in Perth. He worked and dined at the Indian Ocean Brewery on the same night as another positive case – a woman who travelled from Sydney. She also came into contact with a 32-year-old woman who has tested positive.

With Sydney in lockdown, NSW recorded 18 new coronavirus cases with all but one confirmed as linked to existing cases.

Queensland is on the verge of another lockdown in the state’s southeast after two new local cases, with more than 160 returned mine workers being tested.

In the Northern Territory, an outbreak linked to a central Australian mine has grown to seven cases, sparking an extension of a snap lockdown until at least Friday.

Morrison, who is quarantining in Canberra after an overseas trip, said he understood the frustration of Australians at the disruption.

“We’ve got to hang in there – we don’t have a choice.”

Australia has not had a COVID-related death this year.

Asked whether the country should learn to live with the virus in the community even if there are deaths, the prime minister said: “It would be unwise to surrender up that advantage at this point and preferably at no point, but that is a decision that will have to be made in the next year”.

https://indaily.com.au/news/2021/06/29/perth-joins-sydney-and-darwin-in-lockdown/

 

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SA imposes new rules on masks, crowds, drinking and singing

 

Masks must be worn indoors in high risk settings, private gatherings will be capped at 150 people and licensed premises will return to a one person per two-square-metre density cap with a ban on drinking alcohol while standing indoors, under a series of restrictions to be reimposed in South Australia from midnight.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier announcing new restrictions with Premier Steven Marshall. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters this afternoon that Australia had entered a “critical point” in its fight against a series of outbreaks of the highly contagious delta strain of COVID-19, and South Australia had “no alternative but to take… pre-emptive action in South Australia to keep our state safe and our economy strong”.

He announced from midnight tonight, a range of internal restrictions will be reimposed.

They include:

  • Mandatory mask wearing in “high risk settings” such as in hospitals, residential aged care facilities and personal care settings, such as hairdressers and beauty salons
  • Mandatory mask wearing in indoor seated entertainment venues
  • Recommended mask wearing on public transport, including in Ubers and taxis
  • A 150 person cap at private gatherings in homes and halls, including for weddings and funerals
  • A maximum density of one person per two-square-metres at licensed premises
  • A ban on drinking alcohol while standing indoors at licensed venues
  • A ban on buffets and shisha bars
  • A ban on singing – except for performers or at educational facilities

Marshall said authorities hoped the restrictions would only need to be in place for one week.

“The hallmark of our success to date in South Australia has been the partnership, really, between the people of South Australia and the restrictions that we’ve put in place,” he said.

“We have the lowest level of restrictions in Australia, in fact, even after these restrictions are put in place I think we still have the lowest level of restrictions in Australia.

“We have to be very vigilant at the moment.

“The alternative is a full-scale lockdown here in South Australia.”

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she hoped the restrictions would not impact the state’s economy significantly.

“We know that it does have an impact and I don’t want to underestimate that, but we’ve tried to balance what the risk is for South Australia against the economic and social impacts of these restrictions,” she said.

“These will be in for… as shorter period of time as we need it.”

Police Commissioner Stevens said he expected there would be high compliance from hospitality venues once the new restrictions are brought in.

“They’ve actually done a very good job at honouring the directions that have been put in place and we expect that level of cooperation again,” he said.

“We’re not out there to issue expiation notices to people who are trying to do the right thing.

“We will provide education and support as our first step and that has been well received and we will continue to do that.”

Spurrier said that if the delta strain made its way to South Australia, an infectious person would pass the virus on to three and a half other people.

“This is probably as significant as our first wave here in Australia, but particularly because of this new variant,” she said.

Both Spurrier and Marshall pleaded with people to get tested if they develop COVID symptoms, to get vaccinated if they are eligible and to continue checking-in to venues using QR codes.

They said SA Health was currently working to try and maximise the vaccine rollout in South Australia.

South Australia reported no new cases of coronavirus today.

But new locally-acquired cases were this morning announced in New South Wales and Queensland, while lockdowns or tight restrictions have been imposed in four states as the highly contagious Delta strain sweeps the country.

South Australia yesterday slammed its border shut to Queensland, WA, the NT and the ACT, after previously locking out travellers from NSW.

Stevens said SA Police officers were allocated last night to set up checkpoints at the WA and NT borders.

He said SA Police also had a presence at Adelaide Airport, but there had been a “significant reduction” in the number of flights coming in to South Australia.

NSW recorded 18 new local coronavirus cases today, with all but one linked to existing cases.

The outbreak, which has grown to 130 cases since June 16, has prompted Greater Sydney to enter a 14-day lockdown.

Queensland is reintroducing restrictions after recording two new locally acquired cased of coronavirus.

Masks will be mandatory across large swathes of the state, home visits will be capped at 30 guests and venues will need to adhere to a one person per square metre rule.

In the Northern Territory, the outbreak linked to the Granites mine has grown to six cases, while in Western Australia, a woman who returned from Sydney has picked up the virus, prompting increased restrictions including indoor mask use.

The outbreaks have prompted a multitude of border tightening measures, including South Australia’s closure to all jurisdictions except Victoria and Tasmania.

However, Victorians now need to be tested for the virus on the first day they arrive in SA.

Meanwhile, SA Health revealed 29 workers from the Granites mine where a worker tested positive for coronavirus were in South Australia.

The worker at the mine, which is 540-kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, tested positive on Friday after about 900 fly-in fly-out workers had left the site to return to their homes across Australia.

All the workers in South Australia have been tested and returned negative results.

They have been asked to quarantine at their home with their families for 14 days.

“From that risk perspective, I’m quite pleased that that’s all under control,” Spurrier said.

https://indaily.com.au/news/2021/06/28/sa-imposes-new-rules-on-masks-crowds-drinking-and-singing/

 

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Sounds like Heads-Will-Roll time for some politicians. How can they justify not ordering as much vaccine as needed? Was it because the cost was too high? How can it be more expensive than these lockdowns? It really makes no sense. Was it because pharmaceutical companies didn't make enough to supply them with the vaccine?

Heads-Will-Roll.

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On 6/28/2021 at 12:02 PM, dvernb said:

"Dear Customers, We will be closed for the foreseeable future because Scott Morrison is a useless dickhead who only ordered enough vaccine to vaccinate 4% of the population 18 months into a pandemic."

Lol. No beating around the bush there!

 

that's the thing i like about Aussies ... they don't mince their words they say what they feel 

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