MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (NEWS 1130) – While B.C. is in its first week of two-week travel restrictions to quell the second wave of COVID-19, the state of Victoria has reached an incredible milestone in its fight against the virus.
It has gone two weeks without a single new diagnosis.
“Everybody is very happy now, because we’ve had no new infections in the last fourteen days,” says Stephen Duckett, who is director of the health program at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne, the state’s capital city of about 5 million. “The goal was to get to zero, and it was really tough, but everyone is happy now.”
Back in July, the state was recording 700 new cases a day, prompting the government to clamp down for the second time in less than a year. Most of the cases were cropping up in metropolitan Melbourne, which led to the idea of confining people to within a 25-kilometre radius of the city to prevent people from travelling outside of it.
“They more or less prohibited movement within the state, isolating Melbourne from the region. There was a system of permits, for people to travel around or through the so-called ‘ring of steel,” explains Duckett.
Police manned checkpoints on highways leading out of the city. Farms and other companies could issue permits for individuals who needed to travel outside of the ring. Fines as high as $5,000 AUS were issued to people who tried to sneak past the check points.
New restrictions were put in place for people within the ring.
“We had 110 days of lockdown in Melbourne, where we were only allowed to go outside for one hour a day for exercise. There were only four reasons to leave home. One was for exercise, another was to buy necesary food,” Duckett says.
Non-essential businesses and schools within the ring were closed.
“People in the rural areas were having meals in restaurants while we were locked in our rooms,” he says. “The city was very dead.”
Despite the drastic measures, there was a lot of compliance, according to Duckett.
“The government and in fact the people in the rural regions didn’t want the high numbers of the virus that were in Melbourne to spread into their communities.”
He points out throughout the ordeal, support for the government didn’t wane.
“Government support never dipped below 50 per cent during any of this time. There was always very high observance of the restrictions. We have compulsory mask-wearing and 90 per cent of people on the streets are wearing masks.”
As for how businesses will survive, Duckett says they will rely on government support.
“If you were a business which lost significant revenue, you could apply for employment support to keep your employees employed,” he says.
He concedes though, the lockdown has taken a toll on mental well-being.
“It was tough on mental health. There were serious consequences.”
But he says it was worth it.
“The aim is to get back to normal life before Christmas.”
Incidentally, according to the Australian Government Department of Health website, there have only been 12 new positive cases in the entire country in the last 24 hours, which were mostly centred in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.