Whether it is warmer weather or lockdown weariness, the number of COVID breaches in many states and territories has skyrocketed, prompting a furious response from state premiers and the introduction of new restrictions.
Engagement parties, dinner parties, pub crawls, picnics in the parks, group exercise sessions – they’re happening across the country and government, health and law enforcement authorities are livid. Police chiefs are now intent on a police blitz, on levying fines and on ensuring they are paid. There will be consequences for blatant disregard of the rules and it will “very hard for anyone to get a warning”, Victorian chief police commissioner Shane Patton said on Monday.
And Victoria’s COVID commander, Jeroen Weimar, says that anyone with even the slightest of symptoms must get tested as early as possible. A wait of even 24 hours can be critical in containing the spread, he said.
A furious Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced the new restrictions on the back of 22 new COVID cases, including five new mystery infections, but more directly in response to the increasing number of people making “shitty choices … keeping us all locked down for longer than we should be” and “endangering the millions of people doing the right thing”.
A night curfew will again be imposed in Melbourne, from 9pm to 5am and starting from Monday night, the city lockdown has been extended by a further two weeks, until 11.59pm on Thursday, 2 September, playgrounds, basketball hoops, skate parks and outdoor exercise equipment will be closed, exercise will be limited to just two people in total and essential workers will be required to obtain permits for authorised work.
“The choice, really, is between where we are now and hundreds and then thousands of cases,” Mr Andrews said.
“I’m determined to make sure that it [the situation in NSW] doesn’t happen here. I know no one’s enjoying this. But what’s worse than this is being locked up until the end of October, or indeed the end of November, because that’s how long it may well take to get 80 per cent of people through the vaccination program.”
Just 26 per cent of the nation are fully vaccinated and 47.8 per cent have had one jab.
The new rules in Melbourne come as NSW announced its worst 24 hours yet with 478 new cases and seven deaths. Just 87 of the new cases were in isolation for their entire infectious period.
In the Northern Territory, Greater Darwin and Katherine entered a three-day snap lockdown from noon after an infection was detected and the ACT has extended its lockdown for a fortnight after announcing 19 new cases overnight.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has again blamed a minority of people who continued to flout public health orders.
“It is frustrating every day when we get examples of a handful of people doing the wrong thing, having parties or having gatherings they shouldn’t be having,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Or leaving the house when they have got symptoms and they haven’t been tested. It is horrible hearing those examples every day. They’re not a lot of examples but only four or five across the population causes enormous grief.”
Police operations have been substantially enhanced in NSW with the launch of ‘Operation Stay at Home’ to enforce public health orders.
Ms Berejiklian said that while NSW “desperately” needed to turn its case numbers around, Australia “had to be real” about getting down to zero cases.
“We all accept there has never been a complete elimination strategy,” she said. “We know that so long as Delta or COVID exists around the world, so long as we know Australians are coming back home, there will be cases, there will be outbreaks. The question is how do we live with it?”
Can you see lockdowns and restrictions continuing for months? Should there be bigger fines for those who blatantly disregard the rules? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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