After 13 new Covid cases in the last week, all associated with a specific hotel and a family quarantined there (the Holiday Inn cluster), it’s been announced that Victoria will be going into lockdown for five days from 11:59pm tonight. Back to just the four allowable reasons to leave the house (essential shopping, care and compassionate reasons, work that cannot be done from home, 2hrs exercise a day).
This is after South Australia had already announced it was closing its border to us – causing such a panic of people racing to cross the border before the deadline that someone died in a car crash – and now that this has been announced there’s been a flurry of further border closures. Queensland, WA, Tasmania, the ACT… ABC News 24 has just been one press conference after another.
Honestly, I feel so drained and fed up with the whole thing. The second-wave lockdown was devastating to me – my grandmother died and my mum suffered multiple cardiac arrests in that time, and my ability to visit or do literally anything was very very limited. It’s unlikely that anything like that will happen in these next five days. However, I also can’t help but think: these knee-jerk disruptive measures never seem to happen in New South Wales? And yet they’ve got on top of minor outbreaks just fine, each and every time they’ve emerged? How much of these measures are actually necessary, and how much is because our health department and contact tracers are too underfunded for the government to have confidence in their work?
I also think that the border closures are simply bonkers, for what it’s worth. When Victoria had hundreds of cases a day, OK, I understood it then. But when we’re talking about two cases a day, come on, it’s ridiculous. (And to make it clear I’m not some parochial fool, when it was Victoria doing it to NSW and SA late last year, that was also ridiculous.) And as a Melburnian with no need to leave the state, I have the luxury of calling it ridiculous. For people in border areas or with ailing family interstate… man, it’s nasty. To think that a year ago, I would’ve thought the very idea of states closing their borders to each other as coming from some kind of dystopian or apocalyptic story.
Anyway. The reason we’ve been told that this lockdown is necessary is because the outbreak involves the B117 variant of the virus (aka the UK strain). Apparently it’s virulent enough that people are already infectious by the time they’re getting tests and confirmations of their positive status, so… the lockdown is to give contact tracers time to contact and test people before they go and infect more people. (Unless they don’t realise they’ve been exposed and go supermarket shopping, I guess. Let’s hope masks are enough to curtail risk there.) Some other states – like WA and I think Queensland – have taken similar measures in response to the B117 variant “escaping” from hotel quarantine, and I believe neither of those actually led to community transmission, so I’m hopeful that the same will be true for us here. Come Thursday, hopefully we can go back to “Covid-normal”. A complicating factor is that apparently, one of the confirmed cases worked an eight-hour shift in a café at Melbourne Airport while infectious… so, we’ll see. But at present I’m hopeful.
I’ve gotta say, looking forward to vaccines getting rolled out here, whenever that starts happening. Clearly it won’t be the end of the story, as new variants emerge and vaccines have to be tweaked to catch up (that is, there’s the prospect we’ll need booster shots down the line). But if they could keep enough of a lid on the virus to prevent sudden border closures and snap lockdowns, that’d be great!