As a Melbournian, I thought I’d seen the worst lockdown in Australia based on no medical evidence brought in by an incompetent and overzealous government. Until this week with South Australia’s PizzaGate lockdown based on a small coronavirus cluster which currently stands at 26 cases.
Our Premier Dan Andrews didn’t lockdown Metro Melbourne until July 9 when Victoria had reached 191 new daily coronavirus cases. Like Victoria’s second wave, the South Australian outbreak was caused by a hotel quarantine breach.
The news that 3 new cases in South Australia were linked to a hotel quarantine breach was broken last Sunday evening. Immediately after that news those on planes arriving in Perth and the Northern Territory from Adelaide were not allowed to enter the community but were told either turnaround and go back or go into 14 days mandatory isolation.
Also beginning immediately after the hotel quarantine breach announcement was panic buying at South Australian supermarkets. The state had been living under a covid normal set of restrictions having had no community transmission since Australia’s first wave.
Although South Australian authorities told residents there was no need to panic buy the anxiety felt by residents that another lockdown was coming was vindicated by their government’s own panicked response. First, there was the tightening of restrictions announced on the Monday, then at midday, the full 6-day so-called ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown or ‘pause’ was announced.
This was the most draconian lockdown ever seen in Australia: total house arrest, not allowed outside for exercise or walking the dog, banned from visiting a partner who lived apart, only one person per household per day was allowed out to do the shopping, all take away and retail was closed. Fresh food that had been ordered by hospitality venues had to be thrown out costing them thousands as well as wasting food.
It was the South Australian Police led by Commissioner Grant Stevens who were charged enforce this lockdown. As we saw during Victoria’s lockdown they attempted to enforce rules that weren’t in place: in South Australia masks were not mandatory though non-mask wearers were still questioned by police, bakeries as fresh food shops were permitted to open however some were shut down by the police.
For South Australians who going into this lockdown feared that it might be longer than six days the madness was thankfully cut short at midnight last night. Contrary to what their Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier initially told the public this was not a new virulent strain of the coronavirus which spread and mutated rapidly.
Spurrier was pilloried by other epidemiologists and infectious disease experts for suggesting such a thing. We learnt on Friday morning that her hypothesis of a new super strain was not based on medical science or genomic testing or tracing, but based on the incorrect information provided to them by a Woodville Pizza Bar worker who tested positive for covid.
The chain of transmission from the hotel quarantine breach to this pizza worker was a cleaner at the Peppers who we are told caught the virus from a UK returned traveller from a surface, this cleaner spread it to two security guards and 16 other members of her family, one of those security guards worked at the Woodville Pizza Bar who spread it to another worker there, who worked at another quarantine hotel the Stamford.
The pizza worker who caught it from his work colleague initially told contract tracing he only bought a pizza from Woodville. This was the medical scientific basis that they based the super strain theory on: that it was so infectious it was being transmitted through thousands of pizza boxes.
When Liberal Premier Steven Marshall announced the end of the lockdown earlier he blamed the pizza guy for ‘lying’ to contact tracers. Both Marshall and Commissioner Stevens said they could not punish the pizza guy for lying though they clearly wanted to, clearly to just absolve themselves of their panicked irrational lockdown decision. The suspected reason why this pizza worker mislead contact traces is that they were on a student visa and probably working in breach of their visa conditions.
On Friday afternoon this lockdown overcooking farce blamed by the authorities on a pizza shop was being referred to as #PizzaGateSA and #PizzaGate2020. A pizza shop connected to a virus outbreak reminded many of the 2003 Fat Pizza episode Quarantine Pizza where chickens used on Bobo’s pizzas were suspected to be carrying the SARS virus.
Of course, three stooges at the centre of the decision to go into this unprecedented extreme lockdown: Steven Marshall, Nicola Spurrier and Grant Stevens maintain they made the right decision based on the information they had at the time.
Spurrier at today’s press conference brought with her modelling which told her the state had a 99% of having a second wave if the lockdown didn’t happen. At this same press conference, it was announced there had been zero cases of community transmission. The daily tallies since last Sunday for the state have been: 3, 17, 2, 0, 1, 0.
The Northern Territory has today immediately reversed its decision to close the South Australian border. Western Australia’s hard border remains, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria continue to mandate 14 days of quarantine to South Australians. The border between SA-Victoria is now closed on both ends because both states believe the other is still diseased with covid.
The South Australian hard lockdown based on a small cluster sets a horrible precedent across Australia that other states which have an elimination strategy will lockdown their states at a moments notice if there is a minor outbreak, making long term planning impossible for Australians. The only state that has maintained the National Cabinet strategy of suppression and has vowed to keep its economy and borders open is New South Wales.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a lockdown the city of Auckland back in August and delayed the nation’s general election by 4 weeks due to 4 mystery cases, which were likely linked to a hotel quarantine breach. There were fears of another lockdown last week in Auckland after another mystery case in the community that was later traced to another hotel quarantine breach was uncovered.
As South Australia reopened today Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced that state’s final step out of lockdown, including relaxing masks outside and allowing 15 visitors per day to private residences from tomorrow. The state has now gone 23 days without community transmission and has one active case remaining statewide. The Victoria-NSW border opens tomorrow as well.
The South Australian extreme lockdown was supported by the Morrison Government, after all it was their state Liberal counterpart and Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s wife is Steven Marshall’s Chief of Staff.
Despite the economic costs, the curtailment of freedoms and human rights that lockdowns and border closures being Australians have rewarded state and territory governments for these draconian measures with Labor Government’s returned in the NT, ACT, Queensland and across the Tasman in New Zealand.
The overwhelming majority of Australians accept that a vaccine is the only way back to normal and are happy with any and all restriction and surveillance measures during the ‘covid normal’ periods when the virus is temporarily out of the community.
The Australian summer is just about here which is virus frying weather so another widespread wave here is extremely unlikely. In the northern hemisphere sadly they are following the Melbourne and now South Australian models with extreme police state surveillance lockdowns as they enter a dark winter before one of the numerous covid vaccines are mass-produced and distrbuted.