'Nation of prisoners': Sydney's lockdown slammed as businesses struggle

·News Reporter
·4-min read

Australia's Covid response has been put under the spotlight by international media once again, this time taking a lashing in the Wall Street Journal.

In a particularly scathing editorial, state leaders have been accused of turning the clocks back more than 200 years.

"Covid Mania Returns Australia to Its Roots as a Nation of Prisoners," the headline reads.

"It’s hard to know exactly when Australia’s pandemic response crossed the line from tragedy into farce," it begins before mocking NSW's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant for recently urging people to not talk with others while in the community over fears of spreading the highly-infectious Delta variant.

The opinion piece was written by James Morrow, the Daily Telegraph's federal political editor and co-host of Sky News' Outsiders, and notably a staunch critic of the nation's Covid suppression strategy of late.

Sydney is now in its fifth week of lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the Delta variant. Source: Getty
Sydney is now in its fifth week of lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the Delta variant. Source: Getty

For some online the partisan outlook from the author offered little credibility, while others were not as dismissive with the nation quickly being painted as a pandemic failure overseas after months of routine praise for its ability to fend off Covid-19.

"CNN have a piece as well. It's not a good luck for Australia," one concerned Twitter user wrote.

Zero-Covid strategy called 'unending economic nightmare'

Meanwhile the UK newspaper The Telegraph overnight was highly critical of the Morrison government, running the headline: "The unending economic nightmare created by Australia's zero-Covid strategy".

With widespread vaccine hesitancy, and an emboldened anti-vaxxer movement, the paper claimed the zero-Covid strategy had "backfired".

There is undoubtedly a wave of anger as a result of the latest lockdowns at home, as witnessed in Saturday's anti-lockdown protests across the country.

There is an increasing societal divide, with residents either for or against a suppression strategy, with little room for fence sitting. For those in strong support of restrictive measures on social activity to quash the virus, Morrow argues they are caught up in a moral code "even more compelling and immediate than climate change".

He argues Australia became "trapped in an elimination mindset" which has led to the nation becoming a "hermit kingdom". 

He says Canberra was fooled into believing its geographical advantage, which made border closures relatively easy, meant Australia had the upper hand on the virus, neglecting its obligations to vaccinate the nation as quickly as possible.

That has led to an economic crisis for small businesses and industries which have fallen victim to the latest restrictions, with no end in sight for some in Sydney.

"Billions will be spent by government or lost by businesses as a result," Morrow pointed out.

Research by consultants EY and commissioned by the Business Council of Australia shows NSW, Victoria's and South Australia's latest lockdowns are costing the economy $2.8 billion per week and impacting 1.6 million workers.

Calls for 'smarter' lockdown approach

The Business Council says given the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus Delta strain and the current state of vaccination rates, there needs to be a smarter approach to lockdowns.

"Nationally consistent approaches and predictability about how restrictions are triggered, enforced and ultimately lifted will improve confidence in the management of outbreaks, alleviating community and business confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety," the council's chief executive Jennifer Westacott says.

"We must accept there will be a cost in controlling the virus, but we can't sit back and watch all of the hard-won economic gains of the last 12 months unravel."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she is confident the number of daily cases can be brought down. Source: Getty
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says lockdown has prevented 'thousands and thousands of cases'. Source: Getty

The council has released a set of guidelines it wants to see implemented.

These include consistent definitions to trigger lockdowns, which should be localised to affected areas, rather than shutting down the whole state.

At the same time, milestones around lockdown stages should be provided to remove the day-to-day guessing game around the rules and decisions.

It also calls for a roadmap to reopening the economy, which includes a role for business to speed up the national vaccine rollout.

"Lockdowns have enormous economic and social costs and should be a last resort," Ms Westacott said.

"But where they are used, we need to move from snap to smarter lockdowns."

With AAP

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting