Let’s say that there are three scenarios (all of which involve NSW losing control of the shituation – you could have other scenarios too, if you like, where Delta goes easy on us).
Let’s call them “same boat” “spot fires” and “deep moat” I think spot fires is most likely.
In two months time, Delta has spread within New South Wales and to the other states it shares a border with. Despite more of the early and vigorous lockdowns that South Australia and Victoria had “successfully” done in July, Delta wins. The Astra Zeneca surge in vaccinations is still not enough – The hospitals fill up, the death toll of a largely unvaccinated population climbs, public trust breaks down and the economic and psychological hits build up. Western Australia and Tasmania both survive, simply because nobody comes in. If you leave, you ain’t coming back. International passenger flights stop absolutely. The Morrison government basically implodes, with a LibSpill rumoured (Dutton being cautious about having the numbers this time round).
In two months time New South Wales is deep in the shit. The hospitals have filled, primarily with people who have not been vaccinated (that’s still a hella lotta people). Other states are in and out of lockdown – other Premiers have become adept at these, and the populations are used to them, and broadly tolerant, thanks to the shocking scenes of the “alternative” in Sydney and beyond. Vaccine supplies are being jealously guarded. NSW’s desperate pleas for additional medical staff to come help fall on largely deaf ears, with staff in other states knowing it’s a long-term high-risk assignment, and worries about the need to stay put and help in their own state if/when the spot fires also get out of control.
The New South Wales situation is so dire, with pictures of overwhelmed hospitals and young people in body bags, that the Queensland, South Australia and Victoria all basically dig a deep moat and fill it with alligators, over the protests of NSW and the Federals. There is severe animosity in national cabinet, and states start to try to source their own vaccine supplies, since the perception is that the Federal Government is trying to favour NSW, despite no evidence that the use of vaccines as a ‘firebreak’ is effective, given the growing lockdown protests in NSW. International flights are happening, at a reduced level, in all states except NSW. The economic consequences are dire, as are the mental health impacts. Animosities are building up between the states that will take years to sort out, whoever wins the Federal Election in 2022…
For what it is worth, I think spot fires is most likely. But I think the other two possibilities should not be discounted. There is a real danger here that individual states will see no choice but to disregard the Federal “government” and to start taking matters into their own hands with regard to international arrivals, quarantine facilities and vaccine sourcing. What that means for collective action, mutual aid within Australia, well, who knows. This is what happens when you hollow out the state’s capacity to act, its credibility, where you worship the military and hide behind the aura of the uniform.
Very very interesting times ahead.
(What happens if some new variant comes along that laughs at the vaccination status of humans is, well… even more interesting. But now we’re shading into disasturbation…
Premier Dan Andrews is keen on using the Murray river as moat, seeing that Gladys B has refused to quarantine greater Sydney with a ‘ring of steel’ as Melbourne did in 2020. Announced today Changes to Vic/NSW border bubbles: Wagga wagga, Hay, Lockhart, Murrimbidgee local government areas in NSW excluded from border bubble, residents now subject to extreme risk zone permit to enter Victoria. This will pose problems for residents in Albury/Wodonga, Echuca/Moama, Mildura/Wentworth, and smaller towns along the border.
Today a 12 day lockdown (Melbourne’s 5th) in Victoria ended, although restrictions put in place for next 2 weeks. A second Delta variant outbreak squashed.
More than likely we will see more spot fires from NSW put out by fast lockdowns with contact tracing.
Numbers are slowly edging up in NSW. Case numbers, number of new cases infectious in the community, number in hospital, in ICU, on ventilators, and deaths.
Gladys B is relying on a strategy of lockdown supplemented with vaccination to bring outbreak under control. Targeted vaccines will take 2-3 weeks to start working to any degree, and will reduce infection/transmission but not stop it. Especially given both Pfizer and Astrazeneca 1st dose have only 30% efficacy (after 2 weeks) in stopping symptomatic disease.
Lockdown Restrictions are still not at the high level as seen in Adelaide or Melbourne. They say restrictions are based on science, but equally important are restrictions that message seriousness of lockdown. Prime example of this is night curfew.
Targeted restrictions also breed resentment and undermine solidarity across the city. I know this as I was in one of the 10 postcodes targeted in Melbourne last year. Once the whole of Melbourne was locked down a weight lifted and there was purpose & solidarity with a wide cohort. We could stomach initial 1 hour for exercise and the 5km radius mobility rule.
Under current restrictions Sydney is going to be in a long lockdown, probably well into October, November. And that is supposing vaccines will limit transmission.
You are right, there are other variants on the horizon we need to be worried about too: Delta Plus and Lambda variants, and maybe others still mutating/evolving.
These new variants may pose challenges requiring mRNA booster vaccines. We are going to need the 85 million vaccines Morrison ordered from Pfizer/Biontech for delivery in 2022/23. These will be our boosters…
Interesting to compare Australia with Iceland in some ways regarding Covid response. Both nations were able to impose border restrictions, and do extensive testing and contact tracing to control 1st wave quite successfully.
Iceland has now fully vaccinated 74% of their population. They were starting to open up to boost tourism with vaccinated travellers. I guess being vaccinated doesn’t stop you carrying the virus in, though, and starting a train of transmission. 236 people have now been diagnosed with the virus since the beginning of July, 213 of whom were diagnosed in the past week alone. Relaxing border restrictions has led to the Delta variant coming into the country. The majority of those infected have already been vaccinated; most of those, with the Janssen single-dose vaccine. Most have mild symptoms, with 3 in hospital (unclear whether those hospitalised were vaccinated)
So even in a high vaccination setting, we still may need to impose border restrictions, and physical distancing restrictions, mask wearing when we have a surge.
That’s extremely interesting, John. Thanks!
and in neither your post or mine did we consider the Australian Capital Territory in all of this, sitting in the middle of and surrounded by NSW.
Maybe they can erect a wall at their road borders (only kidding, but could restrict roads to freight and regulate testing/isolation of freight drivers) Other travel restricted to/from the ACT to aviation from states with no cases, and employ rapid testing. One point of entry/exit. Incorporate Queanbeyan as part of a Canberra bubble.
Oh, yes, good point. They (ACT) surely must have some plans for some such. What a clusterfuck…