More than a year on, Australians remain closed inside their gilded cage, depending on a series of short, sharp lockdowns to halt an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.
For most of 2020, Australia’s success in containing the virus was the desire of the world. When Italian hospitals sunk in cases during March of that year and the UK dithered about restrictions, Australia decisively shut its borders, and the tactic initially worked too.
A country of 25 million people has established just over 900 coronavirus-liked deaths since the pandemic began. Its total case numbers are close to 32,000 — a figure the UK is crossing daily. And its economy has recovered.
More than half the population comprising those in state capitals Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are again living under lockdown measures after dozens of new cases.
While other Western countries are moving forward with their vaccination rollouts and begin to reopen, Australia’s has been achingly slow. Only over 11% of Australians are fully vaccinated; it is the lowest of the OECD’s 38 countries.
“Fortress Australia” is now seeing uncomfortable questions about just how far this island sanctuary is ready to go to shield itself from external threats, comprising raising the drawbridge to its citizens.
Australians have wished to “put up with restrictions which elsewhere in the democratic world would have been entirely politically impossible,” mentioned Marc Stears, director of the Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney.
That’s because these limitations speak to “quite a deep cultural sense that danger lurks overseas, and the best thing that Australia can do in these moments is cut itself off from the world,” Stears added.