Even as police were kicking people off Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach on the weekend, some Canberrans apparently failed to see what was coming to our city.
As the total number of COVID-19 infections sailed past the psychological barrier of 1000 cases nationally, the ACT saw a doubling overnight to 20 confirmed cases. Yet Canberra Times reporters and photographers observed packed cafes and parks as hundreds of Canberrans appeared to show open disregard for pleas from both the federal and local governments to observe strict social distancing measures.
We had our chance to do the right thing, and many of us failed.
What will come now is a series of punitive measures that will encroach on our liberties in a way that until recently was all but unthinkable. This will come as a shock to many, but it is as inevitable now as it was predictable.
"Despite measures in place to discourage social interaction, there are still too many instances where people are exposing themselves to contracting the virus which is leading to an unsustainable increase in confirmed cases across the country," Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Sunday.
We may have now squandered our precious window of opportunity to put a cap on the impact of this virus.
Our failure to adhere voluntarily to the measures imposed means we may have now squandered our precious window of opportunity to put a cap on the impact of this virus. The impacts of that should not be downplayed, or waved off as scaremongering.
Writing on about how the situation may now play out, Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley outlined a range of possible responses now available to Australia, from restricting movements to 'flatten the curve', through to the most aggressive 'endgame C' which involves effectively shutting the country down, sealing its borders and allowing only essential travel and services to operate.
We now appear to be moving into an 'endgame C' phase, but as Daley points out, even then we will have to shutdown for at least eight to 12 weeks before restrictions can start to be eased. More importantly, even under the best case scenario our hospitals may still be pushed beyond capacity. On Sunday Deputy Chief Medical officer Paul Kelly said healthcare may have to change to keep up with the number of sick patients, including turning resident's homes into hospitals.
"Endgame C isn't pretty ... [but] the faster we do it, the less bad it will be," Daley wrote.
The alternative - tens of thousands of avoidable deaths, a collapse of our economy and mass job losses - is unthinkable, but before Sunday that appeared to be where the country was headed. There is much more at stake than having our social lives crimped.
Australia has many advantages, not just its geographic isolation and high-quality healthcare system. We have also had the advantage of watching this crisis unfold in other well-developed nations to see which countries have done well (South Korea, Singapore) and which have not (Italy, Iran).
Having seen the number of infections take off, authorities have had their hands forced.
Canberra is not an island, and Mr Barr was correct to fall into line with NSW's decision to put that state into quasi-lockdown. The good news is it's not too late. Twenty cases locally is a serious concern, especially if they continue to double every few days, but there is still a window of opportunity to avoid the worst possible outcome.
But it will take a better effort from the minority who still think the rules don't apply to them. Perhaps the measures announced on the weekend will be enough to jolt them into realising the true gravity of what is happening and the importance of playing their part.
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