Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia. Image – Creative Commons.
  • It was on this day, a year ago, that the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown
  • A year on, there have been 124M recorded cases of COVID-19 around the world, and 2.73M deaths
  • In Australia, around 1,000 cases per million, and under 1,000 deaths in total.

It was on this day, a year ago, that Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a nationwide lockdown, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the coronavirus hit Australia a little bit later than other countries, we had the advantage of seeing what had been done elsewhere, and what might work best for us.

At the time, Australia had around 2,000 confirmed cases. A year on, we’ve seen just under 30,000, with 909 deaths.

“We will be living with this virus for at least six months”, said the PM. It was shocking at the time, but 12 months on, we are still living with restrictions and our lives have changed, perhaps forever. A vaccine is on the way, but very few Aussies have been immunised.

A year ago, the majority of cases were people returning from overseas, bringing the virus back with them. At the time, we were worried about surfaces, thinking this is how it spread. It could, but far more dangerous were the airborne droplets, so masks were a priority.

Toilet rolls, pasta and masks sold out across the country amid panic-buying.

“Australians should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work – where you cannot work from home, going to school and exercising. Keep visitors to your home at a minimum. In outdoor spaces do not congregate in groups,” said the PM a year ago today.

Australians were banned from overseas travel, with a few exceptions such as for national security or compassionate grounds.

A National Cabinet met daily, cafes and food courts closed except for takeaway, real estate auctions and home opens were banned, and cinemas, nightclubs, concert venues and theatres were closed.

Australia locked down hard, and perhaps just in time. The ‘curve’ of new cases peaked within a few days and turned downwards. The worst seemed over by the end of April, except for a nasty flare-up in Victoria, and some short term lockdowns in other states as Premiers played ‘whack-a-mole’.

A year on, there have been 124 million recorded cases of COVID-19 around the world, and 2.73 million deaths. Australia had about 1,100 cases per million people, well down on the global average of 16,000 cases per million. In the US, almost 550,000 deaths have been recorded, 30 million cases, or 91,000 per million.

In Australia, by far the worse hit state was Victoria, with 3,000 cases per million, and 820 deaths (90% of all Australian deaths).

Where are we now?

Perhaps we are in a phony war. Very few cases are out there, and if any move into the community, snap lockdowns are introduced. In the US, 45 million people have been vaccinated (14% of the population). In Australia, we are just getting started.

In a press conference two days ago, Health Minister Greg Hunt declared that Australia had been free of COVID-19 community transmission for more than 50 days so far this year.

“Over 6 million Australians will be invited to participate [in the vaccination program] over the coming weeks and months, and we do reinforce the need for patience and the fact that with approximately 250,000 doses to be made available for this week,” he said.

He said that more than 281K Australians had already been vaccinated, mostly in aged care, carers and health workers.

We seem to be entering a critical phase.

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