A recent Washington Posts headline blared ‘Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus — by putting faith in science’:
The Washington Post wrote: ‘Several practical measures contributed to Australia’s success, experts say. The country chose to quickly and tightly seal its borders, a step some others, notably in Europe, did not take. Health officials rapidly built up the manpower to track down and isolate outbreaks. And unlike the U.S. approach, all of Australia’s states either shut their domestic borders or severely limited movement for interstate and, in some cases, intrastate travelers.
…most important, though, leaders from across the ideological spectrum persuaded Australians to take the pandemic seriously early on and prepared them to give up civil liberties they had never lost before, even during two world wars.
“We told the public: ‘This is serious; we want your cooperation,’ ” said Marylouise McLaws, a Sydney-based epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales and a World Health Organization adviser.
A lack of partisan rancor increased the effectiveness of the message, McLaws said in an interview.
The conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison, formed a national cabinet with state leaders — known as premiers — from all parties to coordinate decisions. Political conflict was largely suspended, at least initially, and many Australians saw their politicians working together to avert a health crisis.‘
Perhaps, most important, Australia decided to follow advice from health experts: ‘Australia’s national response was led by Health Minister Greg Hunt, a former McKinsey & Co. management consultant and a Yale University graduate. Hunt and Morrison worked with the state premiers, who hold responsibility for on-the-ground health policy, to develop a common approach to the pandemic.’
The pay-off for that was that a record number of people went to watch a sports event during COVID. The Guardian wrote ‘The whole city was gridlocked: Brisbane heaves as fans allowed back en masse’:
‘Suncorp Stadium’s official crowd at the State of Origin finale between Queensland and New South Wales was 49,155. It is believed to be a world record since Covid-19 shut down sport.’ Competition had resumed in May, about the time that professional football resumed in Europe:
The country had got COVID under control.
Beforehand, however, New Zealand had staged the Bledisloe Cup rugby match against Australia in mid-October, lifting restrictions to allow fans to attend—46,000 attended.
Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland, which re-entered lockdown in August following a small outbreak of coronavirus cases, were lifted at the start of the month to allow crowds to return to stadiums.
‘New Zealand has been widely praised for its approach to handling the coronavirus and has reported fewer than 2,000 total cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic began,’ CNN wrote.
From early October, it was planned to host matches in New Zealand with capacity crowds. Auckland was at a higher alert level than the rest of New Zealand for several weeks because of a small community outbreak of COVID-19, but moved to level 1 from the start of October.
All of this is in stark contrast with most of Western Europe, Latin America, and notably the USA–where COVID has spiralled out of control. As the Post wrote: ‘As North America, Europe, India, Brazil and other regions and countries struggle to bring tens of thousands of daily infections under control, Australia provides a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic. Its experience, along with New Zealand’s, also shows that success in containing the virus isn’t limited to East Asian states (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) or those with authoritarian leaders (China, Vietnam).‘
Notable amongst president-elect Biden’s early contacts with world leaders has been one with NZ’s prime minister, who has offered her nation’s expertise and advice on COVID. All is far from lost for the USA, though much time and too many lives might have been needlessly lost.