Sydney is back in lockdown, with borders closed and hardly anyone vaccinated. How long can Australia go on like this?

(CNN) – In the window of a vintage store in Sydney’s Annandale suburb, a sign expresses the frustration of many Australians with their country’s strategy in the face of the pandemic.

“Dear Customers: We will be closed for the foreseeable future because Scott Morrison is a useless idiot who only ordered enough vaccines to vaccinate 4% of the population within 18 months of a pandemic,” reads the sign, shared on Twitter, in reference to the prime minister of Australia.

Artist James Powditch posted the sign at the Roulette store and the art studio he runs on Saturday, as the city of 5 million people, plus surrounding towns and cities, entered another harsh lockdown, this time for two whole weeks. . By Sunday, a cluster of delta-variant coronavirus infections that began in Sydney’s Bondi neighborhood had risen to 110 cases.

Australia was applauded for its initial response to the covid-19 pandemic and for getting its economy back on track more or less long ago.

But with that assurance has come complacency, particularly in the federal government, which failed to secure enough vaccine doses to avoid the regular “circuit breaker” lockdowns that occur every time some cases arise, or even the longer restrictions that may occur. experience Sydney now. Australia’s borders, controlled by strict quarantine measures, have been almost closed for more than a year.

Now Australians, who enjoyed their early hits, are wondering how much longer this can go on.

“We can’t get out of the country, people can’t get in, and we periodically end up in lockdowns, which costs a damn fortune,” Powditch said.

“People have been accepting that this is a devilishly difficult situation, but once we start to see the rest of the world opening up, we are going to be enraged by the way things like vaccines have been implemented here.”

There are already signs that Australians are growing weary of these sporadic upheavals in their lives. On Sunday, large crowds were seen at Bondi Beach, despite orders to stay home. While outdoor exercise is allowed, Bondi’s footage showed people bathing in the winter sun and sitting on benches with drinks.

People visit Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, during a city lockdown on Sunday.

A 48-hour lockdown was also imposed on parts of Australia’s Northern Territory, including its capital Darwin, after four COVID-19 cases were linked to a worker at a gold mine. He is believed to have been infected overnight in a quarantine hotel in Brisbane. Meticulous efforts are now underway to track the 900 workers who have left the mine for Australian cities in recent days, as the country relies heavily on a robust track and trace system to keep contagion groups contained. .

Doubts about vaccines

Australia has recorded just 910 deaths out of its population of 25 million, one of the lowest per capita death rates in the developed world, and cases have also remained low.

While it outperformed much of the world in the recovery and functioning of its economy, its tourism sector has taken a huge hit, its universities are struggling without the fees generally carried by international students and some Australians, who travel abroad in numbers. relatively high, they are beginning to feel the need to go on vacation abroad.

Even New Zealand, the only country Australians had an open travel corridor with, announced a three-day suspension of non-quarantine travel between nations starting Saturday due to the outbreaks.

Australia has fully vaccinated just over 4% of its population, compared to over 46% in the US and 47% in the UK, according to Our World in Data. Their rates are more comparable to those of Indonesia and India, which, like much of the developing world, were left out of deals with drug companies that secured hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for most of the rich world.

Compounding the problem are doubts about covid-19 vaccines in Australia. A survey by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, with the research firm Resolve Strategic, found that 15% of adults surveyed were “not at all likely” and 14% were “not very likely” to be vaccinated within the months following. The survey was conducted after a finding in April that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to a very rare blood disorder side effect, involving blood clots.

Australian officials have said they hope to achieve herd immunity, the point at which about 80% of the population is vaccinated, before reopening their borders. Prime Minister Morrison previously said it might not be until mid-2022. More recently, he couldn’t even commit to a reopening for Christmas 2022.

In a question to the prime minister, journalists from Channel 9’s Today show suggested on Thursday that Morrison and his slow vaccination plan were responsible for the ongoing lockdowns.

Morrison responded by saying that an increase in supply “will actually go into effect next July,” and that 600,000 doses of Pfizer were due to be delivered next week.

“The challenge we have had, of course, has been with AstraZeneca. I mean, the medical council has restricted their availability to those over 60, and before that to those over 50. Now, that had a huge impact on the strategy and they are events outside the control of the government, “he said. And he added that there were new supply agreements with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.

“So we will continue to work toward that goal, by the end of the year, of offering that vaccine to everyone who wants one and there will be a progressive increase as we move into the second half of the year,” he said.

You can’t get in, you can’t get out

The government has also been criticized for leaving some 36,000 Australians stranded abroad. Limits on arrivals to the country have made reserving seats on flights difficult and expensive, and the cost of quarantine is in the thousands of dollars. It is the responsibility of the person who arrives to pay the invoice.

Dating is just as difficult for some people who live in Australia. If someone from abroad has Australian citizenship or permanent residence, they need a government exemption to leave the country.

The result is not just missed vacations, but time wasted with family and friends.

In the last census of 2016, around half of the people living in Australia were born abroad or at least one parent was born abroad.

Sydney Australia covid-19

Police officers pass by the Sydney Opera House during the first day of confinement on Saturday.

A Brisbane resident originally from Canada, who works at a hospital in healthcare, hopes that a faster vaccination program will allow for fewer border checks and hopefully a trip home.

“I am originally from Canada and I do not know when I will see my family again. Honestly, I think at least two years, “wrote the health worker in a message to CNN.

We are so frustrated! The vaccination process is ridiculous. I am a health worker on the first list of people and there was a lot of confusion. They told us to send an email and they would contact us when our appointment was … then they told us to just show up because that show wasn’t actually recording anything, “he said.

«It is still open for [personas mayores de 50 años] even though spreaders are on average 20 to 30 years old. We are fed up with the confinements, knowing that the vaccine is available.

And for some residents with strong ties abroad, this global isolation has more serious implications.

Katerina Vavrinec, a 34-year-old woman from the Czech Republic living in Sydney, said she has sought counseling for mental health problems arising from separation from friends and family, and the anxiety that comes with it. He has not been in his hometown of Prague for three years.

“Keeping borders closed will have a huge impact on people’s mental health,” he said, noting the high number of Australians with family ties abroad. “So this will have a huge impact on the mental health of millions of people.”

Vavrinec is on maternity leave and will be back to work in just over a week, though she’s not sure what it will be like during lockdown. But it has found a silver lining.

“In fact, I am quite happy that we are confined because I have been quite frustrated with the indefinite border closures. So I hope the closure will force people to realize that completely isolating Australia from the rest of the world is not going to get us out of this. ‘

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