I started to really worry about covid in early March and started keeping statistics from March 16.
On March 16, Australia had 401 cases, not many when set against a population of 26 million, but I was worried about the speed with which it was spreading. On March 17, we had 452 cases, an increase of nearly 13% in one day. The formula for compound interest applies here, so I used it to work out how many cases there would be in four weeks (April 14) if there was no change in the percentage increase. The answer was more than 13.000 cases.
The government stepped in (finally) with restrictions on March 19, but the percentage increases kept going up and hit 27% per day on 22nd March. This would have produced more than 300.000 cases by April 14 if nothing changed. Over 1% of Australians would have had covid.
Fortunately, the restrictions had the intended effect and the percentage increase dropped to 1% after 3 weeks. The actual number of cases on April 14 was 6.400.
From 30 April to 14 July, the number of new cases fluctuated between 0 and 2 and we considered ourselves very lucky.
There were many Australians overseas who wanted to return. Since some of them had covid, they were all required to stay in isolation in specially designated hotels. In one such hotel in Melbourne (in the state of Victoria), a security guard caught covid from a guest, went home and infected many others before anyone realized he had the disease.
Most of Victoria’s cases (20.345) and deaths (819) come from this period.
Victoria closed down under very tight restrictions, has had no new cases for the last 29 days and has lifted restrictions.
Australia so far has had 28.000 cases and 907 deaths which shows that a single mistake in Melbourne can make a huge difference.
In South Australia, (population 2 million, capital: Adelaide), we have had 561 cases and 4 deaths, but we did have a big scare 10 days ago. A cleaner in an isolation hotel caught the virus and went to his second job in a pizza bar where he infected others. This should have been a simple contact tracing operation. However, another person who caught the virus claimed that he caught it from a pizza delivery from that shop. This terrified the contact tracers because you don’t normally catch the disease from such a short transaction. Suspecting that they were dealing with a fast-transmitting variety of the virus, the government shut the whole state down to let the contact tracers have the time to check it all out. Three days later the contact tracers found out that the person who claimed to have been infected from a pizza delivery actually worked at the shop but had lied because he was a visiting student without a working visa. The restrictions were lifted.
Has Australia been fortunate? Yes, we’ve had a much lesser problem than most of the world.
Was it due to skill? Probably not. We live on an island which means we have good control over people entering the country. We have huge distances: Melbourne is the nearest major city to Adelaide, but it is 800Km away. And most of us live in houses surrounded by gardens so that social distancing is part of the way we live. All of these naturally slow the spread of the virus.
But, in a country which routinely faces fires, floods, droughts and other natural disasters, we listen to our governments.
In the middle of March when the Chief Medical Officer in South Australia became alarmed at the growing number of cases, she directed the government to shut the state down, except for ‘essential businesses (groceries, petrol stations, alcohol drive through, and DIY (do it yourself) home improvement places). Restaurants & bars were closed, but take away food places were allowed to operate. Business people learned how to work from home and do Zoom conferences. Schools were closed for one week before the regular 2 week autumn break, to give teachers time to prepare for teaching on line. Places of worship were closed but soon learned how to do ‘Zoom’ worship. Gyms and playgrounds were closed, but South Australians were allowed to go outside and exercise. Mask wearing was not required. Panic buying hit the grocery stores in the few days prior to lockdown. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer were impossible to find!
The lockdown included not allowing persons from other states to come in to SA. It worked well to slow the spread and schools in SA opened for 2nd term on time. People at home were busy doing home renovations and de-cluttering. Hard ware store sales were booming. Second hand shops (closed) were overwhelmed with the number of bags that were dropped off at the front doors, so the stuff was just stuffed inside as no one could go to work. Even after op shops opened, the goods were quarantined for a week before putting out for sale. Many restrictions were lifted in mid June: shops, gyms, churches, and restaurants could open, but all had to do a “COVID SAFE” plan first. The 1.5 metre social distancing rule stayed in place, a limit on the number of persons in an enclosed space, no hand shaking or hugging. So from July to October, life in South Australia was fairly smooth as people followed the guidelines.
Then, early November the virus escaped from a quarantine hotel where returning Australians were being kept and tested. 14 people in one family tested positive, plus a person who said he got the virus from buying a pizza. The state went into immediate and severe lockdown for 6 days. Restaurants were most disadvantaged as they had to throw away perishable stock. Other states closed their borders to us, and persons who were already in Western Australia or Northern Territory were put into self isolation for 2 weeks. In 3 days the lockdown was relaxed, because it was discovered that the guy lied about how he caught the virus. Now at the end of Nov, we are still worried about the spread, although as of today, only 35 positive cases with 5000 persons in self isolation and testing over 10.000 people a day.
The Saga Continues!!! Who knows what December will bring?