Australia’s About to Break This COVID-19 Record
Published 6:20 am 3 Sep 2021
Australia’s lauded COVID-19 strategy is wearing thin.
Australia has been the envy of the world for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise why. Effective testing strategies and lockdown measures have helped to keep the virus at bay, yielding the lowest death rate per capita of any G20 nation.
Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert described Australia’s lockdowns as “really quite uniform, but importantly, effective.”
However, Australia’s heralded strategy has reached somewhat of a dead-end against the highly contagious Delta strain of the virus which has persisted through stringent lockdown measures.
As such, Victoria and the ACT have just had to extend their COVID-19 lockdowns, and NSW looks likely to emerge from lockdown around mid-October at the earliest.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews conceded on Wednesday that the state’s lockdown strategy won’t get COVID-19 cases to zero, and that cases are “going to go up” regardless of what restriction measures are implemented.
“In just the last two days, the number of cases, the nature of those cases, the depth of the seeding of this outbreak has become clear, and the chief health officer’s advice to me and the government has fundamentally changed,” Mr Andrews said.
“The data and evidence and experts are very clear with us: we will not see these case numbers go down. They are going to go up. The question is, by how many and how fast?”
Now, Australian states – particularly Victoria and New South Wales – are waiting for vaccination rates to reach the fabled 80 percent for those aged 16 and up in order to loosen the lockdown measures.
New South Wales have loosely set the date of eased restrictions to October 18th, but this date is also subject to vaccination rates. Though this predicted date would see Sydney locked down for a total of 114 consecutive days – beating Victoria’s lockdown of 112 days last year.
However, Victoria is on track to break a larger record – for the longest lockdowns of any part of the world during this pandemic.
Melbourne is currently in second place for the most time spent in lockdown, having spent a total of 214 under restrictive measures. Buenos Aires is currently on 234 days, and London spent 207 days in lockdown. However, if Victoria waits until reaching an 80% double-dosed vaccination rate, it will be far-and-away the leader for the most locked down part of the world during this pandemic.
We dodged a recession…technically
While many experts predicted a negative June quarter due to the ongoing lockdowns affecting half of the country’s population, Australia’s economy instead rose 0.7% over the June quarter according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This means that we’ve narrowly avoided a recession, using the technical definition of “two consecutive quarters of negative growth.”
However, whether Australia’s economic performance fits under the banner of a “recession” is ultimately a technicality that doesn’t mean much to everyday Australians that are struggling under lockdowns.
Point-of-sale provider Lightspeed noted that hospitality spending saw a stark decline last month, with bar spending decreasing by 15.2%, cafes down 6.2% and restaurants dropping by 8.2%.
Credit card spending also saw a decline in Victoria and NSW when compared against pre-pandemic 2019 according to Commonwealth Bank of Australia data.
July’s lockdowns drove down retail sales in Sydney by 9%, spending on dining out declined by 12.3%, and Department stores went through their fourth consecutive decrease in monthly trade, falling to levels not seen since the first national lockdown.
Data has also revealed that at least 390 businesses across Australia have gone into liquidation during August as lockdowns persist across VIC and NSW.
Stewart McCallum, an Ernst & Young Global Limited professional focused on restructuring, turnaround and insolvency told AFR that “Covid is wearing businesses down.”
With every lockdown comes an increased psychological and financial hurdle to jump over,” said McCallum, adding that “Most businesses coming to us are because of the impact of Covid.”
“You’ll always get situations where businesses are managed badly and will fail, but by and large the impact of Covid is resulting in the business coming to us.”
The tables have turned
Australia has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the way the country handled the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that fatalities and hospitalizations were kept to a minimum until an exit strategy was developed.
However, as the exit strategy seems to increasingly be to abandon COVID zero and focus on reaching high vaccination rates, Australia’s botched vaccine roll-out has meant that the country will be facing some of the world’s longest lockdowns.
In the meantime, Australia’s collective mental health has taken a beating and many businesses find themselves on life support hoping for some reprieve.
In fact, the Business Council of Australia penned an open letter – signed by 80 of Australia’s largest businesses – pleading with the Australian government to end the lockdowns once the 80 percent vaccination rate was met.
The letter reads:
“Australia is juggling a mental health emergency at the same time as a global pandemic. Some of the impacts of current lockdowns are hidden, and the effects will be long lasting,” the letter reads.
“As vaccination rates increase, it will become necessary to open up society and live with the virus, in the same way that other countries have done.
“The National Cabinet has agreed to a roadmap which provides a path out of lockdowns, with an easing of restrictions from 70 percent and 80 percent vaccination rates. We need to stay the course.”
So, while Australia’s lockdown efforts were broadly considered a success, they have not been without costs, and morale is now running thin.
Is your business struggling?
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and there are no guarantees as to when we will hit an 80 percent vaccination rate, or if state governments will even open up the economy when we get there.
As such, business owners are left in limbo – not sure when things will open up, and not able to run their businesses as they normally would.
On just one day in August, $21 million worth of requests for financial support were lodged in NSW alone.
Are you one of the many Australian business owners caught in limbo during this pandemic?
We understand that your business is more than just numbers on a page – your business is your livelihood and can often be a source of pride.
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