'It's demoralizing': Albertans living in Australia react to return of COVID-19 lockdowns

·3 min read
People wait in line outside a COVID-19 vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park this week. Demand for the vaccine has skyrocketed with the recent resurgence of the virus. (Loren Elliott/Reuters - image credit)
People wait in line outside a COVID-19 vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park this week. Demand for the vaccine has skyrocketed with the recent resurgence of the virus. (Loren Elliott/Reuters - image credit)

Former Albertans living in of Australia are hunkering down as the country enters a strict lockdown due to surging cases of COVID-19.

The country is facing one of the worst outbreaks of the virus since the pandemic began, and the state of Victoria has warned it may be losing control of the delta variant.

The latest outbreak began in Sydney last June and has since spread to Melbourne, the nation's second most populous city. It's the sixth time the city has gone into lockdown since the pandemic began.

"It's demoralizing," Jason Dutton, a former Albertan living in Australia, said on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"When we look elsewhere in the world and places are opening up and full steam ahead, the feeling here is it's just us."

The country had reported 658 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Aug. 18, similar to case counts recently reported in Alberta. But Australia has taken an extremely aggressive stance on the novel coronavirus that aiming to completely eradicate it.

Australia has only reported just over 42,000 total COVID-19 cases and 915 deaths since the pandemic began. The country's measure resulted in long stretches without any new cases.

In Canada, meanwhile, there have been more than 1.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 26,000 deaths.

Deciding which country has handled the virus better is difficult, said Dutton. While Australia's zero COVID-19 strategy has saved thousands of lives, it has also cost thousands of jobs.

"There's a moral gray area in what's the best thing to do, as the feeling in Australia is we can't stay a fortress forever. It's just, when do we give up?"

Australia has one of the lowest vaccination rates relative to other wealthy countries. Less than 30 per cent of people are fully vaccinated, compared to 65 per cent in Canada.

When the vaccines arrived in the country earlier this year, there were zero cases of COVID-19. Therefore, people did not see the need for a vaccine, Dutton said.

But demand has skyrocketed since the virus' resurgence.

Parts of New South Wales, including Sydney, have already been in lockdown for weeks. While Canberra entered a sudden lockdown this week after recording its first case of COVID-19 in over a year.

Melbourne marked its 200th day under lockdown restrictions earlier this week.

"It's like Groundhog Day. It's the same over and over again," said Mark Weber, another former Albertan living in Melbourne.

Residents in lockdown are under a nightly curfew, must carry permits to travel beyond a five-kilometre radius from their home and all non-essential retail is closed.

People can be issued fines up to nearly $4,600 for breaching the rules.

Australians largely supported the first several lockdowns, the latest restrictions are not popular, said Weber.

Thousands have taken to the streets in Sydney and other Australian cities to protest in recent weeks, sometimes having violent clashes with police.

LISTEN | Parts of Australia head back into lockdown:

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