Who is in power in Australia

This is how Australia protects the entire population against the corona virus

One case, total lockdown
The country is preventing the pandemic from spreading with the strictest restrictions. One of the most important tennis tournaments in the world with tens of thousands of spectators can start on Monday.
The country is preventing the pandemic from spreading with the strictest restrictions. One of the most important tennis tournaments in the world with tens of thousands of spectators can start on Monday.

For a moment everything was on the brink. Then on Friday the all-clear was given. The Australian Open can take place as planned. After a positive corona case at an employee in a player's hotel, 507 players and supervisors had to be quarantined on Thursday, local time. Now all have been tested, all negative. The tournament should take place as planned - with up to 30,000 people per day.

At the same time on the other side of the country, almost 3,500 kilometers away: Lockdown. Because of a single corona case. After almost ten months, an infection was discovered in the population of the city of Perth, which has a population of just under two million. The harsh reaction followed promptly. For five days, people were only allowed to leave their homes to go shopping, work or do sports for an hour. The restrictions are much stricter and more consistent than in Germany, where several thousand cases are reported every day. Is it a recipe for success? Few new infections have been reported in Australia for weeks.

It's not the first time that entire cities in Australia have been cordoned off. It was only at the beginning of January that the city of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia was locked down due to a single corona case. And in Melbourne, too, the restrictions were tightened immediately after a corona case, although nowhere near as drastic as in the rest of the country.

What the graphic does not show: The Australian Ministry of Health distinguishes between local cases and infections brought in from abroad. The authorities have not reported a single new case in the past 24 hours. There have been two in the past seven days. This is also the reason why, with four new infections reported on February 4th, regions are no longer placed under lockdown.

Because such strict restrictions are only decided if a corona case is discovered in the population and not among those entering the country. Then the local authorities react immediately with strict measures - but only where the case was actually discovered. In the Perth case, a security guard was infected in a quarantine hotel.

Quarantine hotels and very tough rules

These quarantine hotels are part of Australia's success in the fight against the coronavirus, which with its zero-covid strategy is often cited as a role model for Europe. The strictest entry regulations apply. Anyone who is allowed to enter - tourist visas are currently not issued - must be in a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense. Before these restrictions, even tennis stars were not exempt. They spent their first 14 days in Australia in a quarantine hotel. Tennis training? Only in the hotel room.

The country has also restricted international flight connections. The open airports allow only a few passengers to enter. With the same strategy, New Zealand has been able to keep the country almost corona-free for months.

Then there are the regionally limited measures of the federal states. When the number of cases began to rise in the Australian winter in July, the state of Victoria decided on one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. For 112 days, people in Australia's second largest city were barely allowed to leave their homes.

Lots of tests, low positive rate

Another building block in Australian success is contact tracking. The site of infection is known in 85 percent of all cases. In Germany, it is hardly possible to provide reliable, comparable information on this.

As soon as a corona case occurs in the population, tests are carried out on a large scale - including people who are symptom-free. If a country tests enough, the positive rate, i.e. the number of positive results among all tests, is low. Even at the height of the Australian second wave in August, it was lower than in Germany during the entire pandemic.

The result of the many tests: Infections are detected early before they can spread in the country. In total, Australia has recorded 28,842 confirmed corona cases since the pandemic began - as many as were often reported in Germany in a single day.

Few countries got through the pandemic so well, with so few confirmed cases per 100,000 population within a year. Australia's direct neighbor New Zealand does even better.

In an analysis by the Australian Lowy Institute, New Zealand is therefore in first place in a ranking that describes which countries have weathered the pandemic particularly well. Australia follows in eighth place.

Fewer people died in Australia than the previous year

Of course, low case numbers also mean fewer deaths. The Australian broadcaster ABC reported in January that excess mortality in the country could even be lower in 2020 than in previous years - despite, or even because of, the corona virus. In Germany, it had risen sharply, especially in November and December, compared to the same months of the previous year.

If you compare these numbers with Germany, the picture is similar to that of the infected. If a total of 909 people died in Australia, German authorities reported 1,000 new deaths per day in December. A total of 60,885 people have died with corona in Germany since the pandemic. If these cumulative deaths are offset against the population - Germany has 80 million inhabitants, in Australia there are 25 million - the picture is clear.

New limits and extreme speed of reaction

Still, these low numbers don't come without caveats - even now. Early on in the corona pandemic, the states also closed new borders in their own country. Today the residents still need permits, so-called “boarder passes”, in German “border passes” in order to travel to another federal state. The control of such measures is of course easier in Australia than in Germany. After all, it's an island. But that alone does not explain the strategic success. After all, Great Britain is also an island.

The regional authorities can announce restrictions within a few hours. And in Australia, too, the different rules in the states lead to absurd situations. Because while 25,000 spectators come together in a stadium in Melbourne in the state of Victoria, the clubs in neighboring Sydney in the state of New South Wales are still closed. At indoor concerts, a maximum of five musicians are allowed to sing on a stage indoors. Singing along for the audience is prohibited.

The authors: inside

Published on February 5, 2021.