The big challenge facing governments right now is to persuade people to continue to comply with the laws, regulations, and guidelines that have been drafted to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It is obvious "coronavirus fatigue" is beginning to take a toll on the social cohesion that was such a wonderful hallmark of Australia's first response to the pandemic. The rise in civil disobedience, manifested by the refusal of a small handful of zealots to refuse to comply with the mandatory mask rules in Victoria, and the determination by Black Lives Matter protesters to press ahead with a rally in Sydney today, could not have come at a worse time.
There were more new cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday than at any point since the virus reached these shores. Of the 549 Australia-wide, 532 were in Victoria. There are now 259 people in hospital, 245 of them in Victoria. One in five of these are in intensive care. Twenty-four, or just under one in 10, are on ventilators. This is not the flu; this is deadly. Twenty-one people died over the weekend.
It is now apparent this "second wave" is significantly more serious than the first, and that community transmission in Victoria, and to a lesser extent in NSW, is running at a much higher rate than in March and April.
So, what is the answer? At this stage the authorities are responding with a very hard line. Blatant non-mask wearers are being forcibly arrested in Victoria, checks on those supposed to be in self-isolation have been ramped up, police and the defence force are guarding hotel quarantine stations, and potential BLM protesters have been warned to expect to feel the full force of the law.
While these responses are understandable, the time has come to ask if there are better ways to get the community back on board than this. History has shown these types of responses are about as effective as America's recent decision to close down a Chinese consulate. That automatically prompted a tit for tat reaction that resulted in the departure of some US diplomats from China.
Australian governments would do well to heed the advice of Mahatma Ghandi, a man who knew more than most about civil disobedience, and who famously said: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".
ASIO is already concerned right-wing groups are using discontent with the restrictions to recruit new members as part of a spurious civil liberties campaign. It would be folly to give neo-fascist ratbags more oxygen by escalating levels of "repression".
It's not enough for Daniel Andrews to tell Victorians the lockdown won't end until everyone does what they are told, or for the Prime Minister to dismiss BLM protesters as lawbreakers. While that may be popular, with 98 per cent of respondents to an ABC online survey saying they felt it was too dangerous for the Sydney rally to proceed, it doesn't achieve much.
Given NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian cited the cancellation of Anzac Day gatherings as a reason BLM protesters shouldn't be given special exemptions, it is timely to recall we witnessed a most unique and moving demonstration of public respect on April 25. People rose with the dawn to meet at the ends of their driveway to honour the fallen.
Wouldn't it make sense for high-level meetings between BLM and other worthy issue advocates, and the relevant state and federal authorities, to explore suitably compliant ways in which people could express their views without endangering themselves or others? Australia found a way to honour the Anzacs. Surely it is not beyond this country to find another way when it comes to Black Lives Matter.