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If driving down community cases of COVID-19 was an Olympic sport, Victoria would be bringing home gold.
No one enjoys lockdowns, but the state government’s strategy of going hard and going early has once again delivered results, although it inevitably comes at a cost.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday announcing the state has “seen off” the Delta strain. Credit:Eddie Jim
Our willingness to quickly embrace lockdowns has disrupted education again and zapped business confidence. Weddings, funerals and holidays, even those within Victoria, can no longer be guaranteed.
Unfortunately, this approach remains the only strategy that can effectively drive down case numbers until more of us are vaccinated.
Premier Daniel Andrews knows this, so, in an outburst of hubris, he reminded Victorians on Tuesday that the state had again “seen off” Delta, which is something no other jurisdiction has achieved.
Until Delta arrived on our shores, NSW prided itself on its ability to avoid restrictive lockdowns like the one Melbourne endured in 2020. Should their more nuanced approach have worked this time, it would have been cause for celebration.
But in the face of this faster and fitter strain, no other strategy appears to be fit for purpose if zero cases of community transmission is the goal.
This variant has overturned assumptions about how the disease spreads and how it can be managed.
Victoria’s victory over Delta comes at a time when the global community is abandoning plans to drive down cases of this wild strain.
In Singapore, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung this week told Parliament the contagious variant simply cannot be stopped. He said that if another lockdown was imposed, cases would only rise again once it was over.
“Eradication is therefore not possible nor sustainable,” Ong said.
Victoria’s latest success is proof this variant can indeed be beaten, albeit at an enormous cost.
Amid the joy we share, it’s important to heed Ong’s second warning, that eradication is perhaps not sustainable.
There may come a time when the state government needs to slowly shift its approach from the narrative that we can effectively live without COVID-19 between rounds of severe lockdowns.
Plunging the state into these restrictions quickly may be a proven strategy in ridding the state of the virus, but it is unsustainable.
As we work towards vaccinating more Australians, it remains the best weapon in our arsenal.
But our key performance indicators will need to shift away from lockdowns and offer us a more permanent path out.
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