Earlier this month I claimed Australia had caught “COVID derangement syndrome” after multiple states and territories abruptly closed their borders to Brisbane and imposed draconian isolation requirements after only one local COVID-19 case was recorded, in turn plunging the travel plans of thousands into disarray:
These knee jerk lockdowns make a mockery of the change in the national anthem’s lyrics to “we are one and free”.
We are more divided than ever, too willing to throw up the state shutters at the earliest opportunity.
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As it turned out, Brisbane recorded a total of two local infections from that “outbreak” and the situation was promptly brought under control:
Thus, we witnessed a load of knee-jerk panic over nothing.
Now we are witnessing similar scenes again after Australia suspended travel with New Zealand after it recorded a single community acquired case of COVID-19, prompting criticism from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she is disappointed by Australia’s decision to reinstate quarantine travel in the wake of the New Zealand’s latest community COVID-19 case, adding that the situation is “well under control”.
On Sunday, New Zealand health officials identified a first case of the virus in the community in two months.
A rigorous contact tracing and testing effort has yet to identify any evidence of COVID-19 spreading to anyone else in the community.
That did not stop the Australian Government from clamping down its border for 72 hours, meaning travellers would be shepherded into quarantine hotels if they boarded flights.
Ms Ardern said she told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison she was disappointed by the decision, and that she had confidence in her country’s health efforts.
“I certainly shared my view that this was a situation that was well under control,” she said.
“If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to give people confidence that we won’t see closures at the border that happen with very short notice over incidents we believe can be well-managed domestically.”
The Labour leader had previously outlined her hopes to establish a trans-Tasman bubble — or two-way quarantine-free travel between the two countries — by the end of March.
In Wellington on Tuesday after her first cabinet meeting of the year, she said Australia’s decision pushed out those hopes.
How can anyone have confidence to travel when our governments are so quick to pull up the shutters at the first sign of an infection?
New Zealand’s management of COVID-19 has been impeccable, even better than Australia’s. So for the federal government to suspend travel after only one case among a nation of five million people is overly rash and illogical.
“Sovereign risk” has well and truly engulfed Australia’s travel industry. Nobody can be confident to book travel when there is the clear and present danger that abrupt lockdowns and isolation requirements will be imposed, crushing holiday plans and preventing citizens from returning home.