Second Lockdown inevitable

Monica Wilkie

13 July 2020 | Ideas@theCentre

Parts of Victoria are going back into Stage 3 lockdown. This was inevitable – not due to rising coronavirus cases, but because in March we relinquished everything to fight COVID-19.

Predictions of catastrophic numbers of corona cases and deaths prompted Victoria to re-impose draconian restrictions, some even harsher than before. People in several public housing towers are not allowed to leave. At all.

Although distressing, it is hard to argue against these restrictions because, in March, as Lord Sumption stated we “willingly surrender[ed] [our] freedom in return for protection against some external threat.”

As the coronavirus crisis was unfolding, the media and the Australian people accepted the government should act —do anything — to stop a catastrophe. They acted, we obeyed.

We obeyed as businesses were shuttered, families were forbidden from visiting one another, and people were restricted from farewelling their late loved ones.

We watched as fines were handed out for eating a kebab or taking a driving lesson.

We enthusiastically downloaded the pointless COVIDSafe app because we were told it was necessary to not only save lives, but to reopen the economy.

As businesses started to open, they dutifully followed the guidelines on collecting patrons’ details, enforcing social distancing, and enhanced cleaning.

Not only did Australians comply with the new and increasing restrictions on our liberties, but we rewarded our political leaders with stratospheric approval ratings.

So, it was always inevitable that as soon as the COVID threat re-emerged, governments would feel safe in acting the same way as they did the first time.

Whether this was the best, or only, way to stop the spread of the virus is not yet known — but it is what happened.

After having made the pact in March that the COVID threat required the shuttering of all aspects of our lives, we now must decide if this is the way we will fight going forward.

Despite what health officials think, repeating lockdowns indefinitely is not feasible.

The Morrison government admits the economy is in bad shape, and the economic and social costs of a cycle of lockdowns would be disastrous.

Apparently, “we are all in this together” but governments should be careful about stretching the ‘togetherness.’ We tolerated the first round of lockdowns in the name of public health. Our obedience and trust might not last forever.

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