For a year and a half, residents of Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria in Australia, have been entering closures and leaving due to the outbreak of the corona virus. Violent demonstrations have recently begun on the streets of the country against the policies of the government and its leader Scott Morrison, as in the other countries in Australia, demonstrations that are only increasing these days.
“The government here has a policy of reaching zero contagion, and for all that – closing an entire country,” says Ofir Kuberman, an Israeli programmer who lives in Melbourne. “There is a hermetic closure, you can not enter or leave the country, there is a curfew from nine o’clock in the evening, and if God forbid you are caught violating any directive, you are automatically fined $ 5,000.”
So far, Australia has excelled in curbing the epidemic and has experienced almost no morbidity, which has probably led to its low immunization rate – only about 24% have been vaccinated twice. Since the outbreak of the plague, some 45,000 people have been infected, and more than 980 have died. It is currently experiencing a fourth wave of corona. The strategy includes a strict policy, with the aim of achieving zero adherence to the community, using long closures for the entire population.
As part of the policy, currently three out of six federation states require all their residents to be under domestic closure. Among the restrictions, which vary from country to country: a ban on leaving the house in the evening, closing places of entertainment, a ban on leaving or entering the city without special permission, and heavy fines for violating guidelines such as a ban on driving a car with a non-family member. One of the countries where there is a closure these days is, as mentioned, Victoria, where the daily number of infected people currently stands at about 50.
According to Kuberman, street checks indicate residents are close to a breaking point. “Australian culture is a drastically different culture from Israeli culture,” he says. “Usually the Australians demonstrate a little, not a lot, but some time ago they went crazy over the fact that the police used a rubber rifle against the protesters themselves, and that created violence and a storm. It feels like Australians are starting to get tired of the situation because the Australian government is playing on us. They decide on a closure for a week and extend it every time for another week and another week, and that’s how it goes on and on. “
“The state of Victoria is a different case from the other countries,” explains Idan Goldberger, a resident of Melbourne and CEO of the Australian Friends of Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital. “When we started the closure, the rest of the countries lived as usual with light closures, so a lot of Melbourne residents got upset, but now they are all in the same pit. Australians will not be able to absorb much more. Economically, Australia is a country of great abundance, and up to the Corona – for 29 years there has been no recession. Now there are a lot of shops for rent on the streets, and it is difficult to know when the businesses will be able, if at all, to recover. Because of the situation, the demonstrations also started, and we are talking about these being the most violent demonstrations in Australia in the last 20 years. “People are frustrated and take it out because they do not have the money to go to the supermarket to buy food.”
“The Australians were naive at first, believed everything the government said and obeyed, because it is a very remote place and cut off from the news,” describes Siegel Tabo, a Melbourne resident. “Even if they listen to the news, it is once a day for a quarter of an hour, unlike in Israel where people are connected to the news 24/7. Suddenly the corona landed on them, the government helped, and now slowly more and more infections began, the closures began to worsen, and people began to protest. In recent days there has been a huge demonstration against the government and against the closure, the Australians are starting to react and get angry. “On the one hand, they are taking to the streets because they are tired of this wrong policy of the government, and on the other hand, the Delta strain can shut us down for a long time.”
“Australians absorb the closures in several ways,” explains Ayelet Harpaz, a pastry chef in the city of Daislford, Victoria. The businesses that were affected – started moving to takeaways if it was the restaurant business, or work from home. The government provides a great deal of financial aid. Even if you go to do a corona test and are forced to miss a day of work, you automatically get a grant, and even in quarantine there is weekly compensation. The problem is that if an infection happens outside of Melbourne, the whole country is closed automatically, which is problematic. “
Closed until Christmas
In the past two months, the state of New South Wales and its capital Sydney have also entered a long and tedious closure. New South Wales is the most populous in the federation and is home to about 8 million out of Australia’s 26 million inhabitants. In the current wave, the country broke a record of over 700 verified per day. “We were lucky last year because there were two really small closures, and there weren’t too many dramas until two months ago,” explains Yael Marom, a Sydney resident. “Everything exploded from one incident of a driver of an air crew infected with the Delta strain from one of the flight attendants on the plane, and from there everything deteriorated, and all of Sydney went into closure.”
How did they react to the closure there?
“It was a bit amusing to see how they were pressured by two contagious, but then the numbers kept growing and it seemed like we would not get out of it, so they tightened the restrictions. There is a very large response to the closure. In each supermarket you have to fill in details and a health questionnaire, do heat tests and also check in on the spot, so if there is a case of someone being sick, then the government sends an order to everyone who checked in at the supermarket to go into isolation and do tests. Everything is arranged there. We had someone who visited the writer and was sick, and everyone who was at the writer in the five days before that person found out – went into solitary confinement for two weeks. It’s about 5,000 people. “
She said, “There is some pressure here, and there are cases of people reporting someone who saw him enter someone else’s house contrary to guidelines. The police here also call on people to report if they see that there are incidents or neighbors who are violating instructions. There are insane fines here. If you are traveling with someone not from your family in the car, there is a $ 3,000 fine. People are pretty obedient, but I do not know how many more they will be able to continue like this. It’s starting to bubble in people. “
“The main damage to New South Wales was in tourism,” explains Shira Yelink, who lives with her partner on the border between the state of New South Wales and the state of Queensland. “It was pretty quiet with us, even when Sydney went into closure with us everything went on as usual. Three weeks ago a corona denier from Sydney came to the area, breaking a lock, and hung around here for eight days. After symptoms were discovered in him and an ambulance came and evacuated him and he was also put on trial, they decided to close us down.
“Immediately after the incident, everyone went to be tested and found negative. Until yesterday, one positive person was discovered, and we are probably going to be closed again. The talk is that the country will be closed until Christmas. All this time we did not have one verified case “One case of infection, and then we will be closed. This does not mean that there are no cases of infection or that we are protected, but because of the same person who violated the closure and entered us – 40,000 people went to be examined.”
According to Jelink, Australian police are starting to be aggressive towards the protesters. “There have been big demonstrations in Sydney and Melbourne, and the cops are starting to use rubber rifles and shoot at protesters,” she says. “There is more anger from the public. “Now the borders between the countries within Australia are also being closed, so the situation is only getting worse.”
In recent days, 69 Australian citizens, mostly Jews, have attended an ultra-Orthodox engagement party in Melbourne and violated the closure. For this, its participants were fined a total of $ 350,000 – one of the highest fines imposed in the world since the outbreak of the plague. Documentation of the party that was uploaded to social networks – provoked abusive reactions towards Jews in general. “Discourse is heated when people are in distress,” Goldberger explains. “There has always been hatred of Jews, and there are worse places to be Jews than Australia, but the rise in anti-Semitism is indeed very worrying. The incident of the ultra-Orthodox family forcibly blew up the antisemitic issue. “
How much longer do you think the Australians will last in this quarantine?
Kuberman: “Until the fifth closure, businesses still managed to survive, but in the last two closures it has already been a death blow to businesses. Because of the closures, the number of suicides in Australia has also risen significantly. The solution will come if Sydney starts living with the Corona like Israel. ”
Jelink: “It’s bubbling like a pressure cooker for Australians. The ability to endure it is dwindling. If there is no end date for the closure, the big explosion will come. “
The issue of vaccines is also shaking Australia. The popular vaccine there is from the maker of the Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra-Zenika, which has reported rare cases of blood clots among vaccinated people. “Australians have been licensed to manufacture these vaccines in Australia and are giving them to everyone instead of those of Pfizer,” says Kuberman. “Some people do not want to take the risk and wait for Pfizer, but there are not enough Pfizer vaccines, and the government does not give to everyone, but only to young people or with a doctor’s approval.”
Closing the sky almost hermetically to non-residents also makes the situation difficult. “The only ones who can come in are residents,” says Kuberman. “Anyone who wants to leave can only do so on three conditions: either for business for the benefit of the state, or for medical treatment that cannot be undergone in Australia or if a relative has died in another country. I personally submitted two requests to leave, and unfortunately I was not approved. I feel like I’m in jail. There is no freedom and no freedom. “
“The fact that Australia’s borders are closed for exit is very challenging for me,” adds Yelink. “I can not visit Israel, and Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has such a policy. I can try to issue a special permit, but it is a complex process, and if approved, then the flights are very expensive and sometimes canceled at the last minute. “People in the Israeli communities can no longer with this distance from the family and want to leave Australia without returning again.”
Australian policy is particularly prominent compared to the reality in Israel, where 9,831 verified people were registered yesterday, but the policy is to “live alongside the epidemic” and avoid closure as much as possible.
What do you think about Australia’s policy regarding the corona compared to Israel for example?
Goldberger: “Israelis perceive crises in a different way and deal with them differently. We Israelis improvise our way out, the main thing is to get out of it, and Australians are slower and like to go for sure. Australia is more orderly and has a price. Indeed, Australians look at Israel in astonishment at the insane achievements in the high vaccination rates. They are like a year and a half behind Israel in dealing with the Corona. “
Kuberman: “There is an illogical policy of the Australian government, it is impossible to reach zero contagion. In Israel, people learn to live next to the corona, and that’s how it should be. “
Yelink: “They are very tough on everything. They follow the Chinese model and close on every single infected. They are a lot behind relative to Israel. This is a mistake in my opinion. They want to vaccinate everyone, but do not understand how to do it. “
Marom: “In Australia we make all the possible mistakes in the world. They had a year to learn from all over the world, and they did not learn. Instead of dealing with it as smart as Israel, they have been pursuing the same unhelpful policy for almost two years. They shut down millions of people at home over an infection case that exists in one city. This is a terrible mistake that will lead to doom. ”