Australia and COVID Zero: What Was The Long-Term Plan?

Five years or so ago I remember it was a popular social media poll question in this country to ask where one would live if they could not live in the US.  I remember that Australia and New Zealand were often near the top of the lists.  Which leads me to ask today -- would anyone, after watching the extraordinarily totalitarian response of these two countries to COVID, answer the same way today?  I certainly would not.  The country of Crocodile Dundee has morphed before our eyes into the country of some weird fascist version of piglet in the 100 acre wood.

I have wondered for a while what Australia was thinking of -- long-term -- with its COVID zero policy.  Let's say they were successful in their country eliminating COVID cases.  Now what?  They would soon be a nation of non-immunes in a world that has largely come out the other side of the pandemic.  This is particularly true now that we have a better sense that existing vaccines are more of a before-the-fact treatment to reduce the severity of the disease than they are absolute immunity to catching the thing, at least in some mild way that triggers an overly-sensitive test.

Were the Australians going to permanently wall themselves off from the rest of the Earth?  Refuse to participate in the world economy?  Because the one thing that is absolutely certain is that reservoirs of the disease would still exist -- heck, there are still small whooping cough outbreaks in the US, and a couple hundreds polio cases around the world each year.  Perhaps they were hoping the disease would morph into something less deadly, as most viruses do (most all parasites will mutate over time to spread more easily but be less likely to kill their hosts).   If this is the case, it is sure strange given that the people most in favor of extreme government interventions are the exact same people who seem unable to recognize the Delta variant as being less rather than more deadly.

Well, the sort of good news is that the Australian government has announced that it is willing to release the citizenry from its hostage status once 80% are vaccinated.  I personally was vaccinated very early on (so early that I may soon not be counted as vaccinated) and would urge most adults without any unusual medical conditions get one as well.  It is not going to stop you from testing positive at some point, but it very likely will keep you off a ventilator if you do get COVID.   If you are in Australia, I certainly would recommend it as a small price to be released from captivity.