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Explained: How Australia’s ‘Go for zero’ policy helped it bring Covid-19 cases down to a trickle

Australia Covid-19 Cases: The lifting of curbs come on the back of Australia's two most populous states -- Victoria and New South Wales -- recording little to no new cases in recent weeks

Written by Abhishek De , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 15, 2020 3:14:47 pm
A patient has her temperature checked at a medical clinic in Melbourne (AP)

Australia’s Victoria state has allowed up to 100 people to attend public gatherings and Melbourne welcomed its first international passenger flight in five months even as Western Australia is set to open its borders to people arriving from Victoria and New South Wales. The turnaround in the coronavirus situation in Australia — which had gone three weeks without any local transmission of Covid-19 till December 2 — has led to a significant easing of restrictions, with the country being one of the first to allow spectators into stadiums.

The lifting of curbs come on the back of Australia’s two most populous states recording little to no new cases in recent weeks. While Victoria has had no new cases for more than a month, with officials claiming to have “eliminated” the coronavirus, New South Wales recorded just one local infection in the last four weeks.

With Australia reporting an average of just 10 cases daily in the past week, the country has all but stamped out the novel coronavirus, particularly in Victoria, the second-most populous state, which in early August witnessed as many as 700 daily infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Besides, since October 27, Australia has reported just one Covid-19-related death out of the 908 fatalities in the country, having a fatality rate of 3.2 per cent. Out of the nearly 28,000 infections recorded in Australia, only 44 active cases remain in the country. Australia’s strategy to eliminate the virus entirely rather than just pull down the case numbers during the second Covid-19 wave saw the country recording just 2,000 cases since September as compared to nearly 8,000 cases logged in August alone.

australia, australia coronavirus cases, australia budget, australia economy, coronavirus news, indian express People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk in the central business district in Melbourne (AP)

How Australia managed to contain Covid-19?

As Australia began to witness a resurgence in cases from late July, the Scott Morrison government put in place measures with the explicit goal of eventually reaching zero new cases and not just to flatten the curve. It was part of a policy proposal, named “Go for zero”, by Grattan Institute (a non-profit think tank that advises the government).

Without wasting much time, the government ordered closing of businesses, imposed a night curfew and asked residents not to venture out beyond five kilometers of their home. Some of the Australian states also closed their borders to the others. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

A woman wearing a face mask walks in Centre Place in Melbourne, Australia (AP)

Besides expanding testing, Australia also ramped up contact tracing and imposed mandatory isolation. To tackle the issue of travellers breaking quarantines, as was witnessed earlier, the government introduced a system of QR codes that people had to scan to enter any public venues. This helped in tracing them if a related person contracted Covid-19. Some Australian states, like Victoria, deployed police to carry out spot checks of people supposed to be in isolation.

Additional health hotels or “hot hotels” were set up for people with medical needs or symptomatic travellers, which prevented the emergence of clusters. The fees were capped at $3000 per adult, $1000 for each additional adult in a room and $500 for children aged between three and 18. It was security breaches at hotels in Melbourne that is believed to be behind the second wave.

To support businesses and workers, the government provided subsidies to firms to keep people employed and also increased unemployment benefits of staffers.

As cases started to decline September onwards, the lockdown measures were lifted in a tiered manner rather than at one go. Initially, the stringent travel restrictions were removed and schools and businesses were allowed to reopen. Masks have been made mandatory indoors and on public transportation. Weddings, funerals and religious gatherings have also been recently allowed to go ahead with bigger attendances.

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