Bloomberg Australia: Lockdown fatigue

Bloomberg Australia
Bloomberg

Welcome to our weekly newsletter — a fresh, global perspective on the stories that matter for Australian business and politics. This week: Lessons from Melbourne's lockdown, and how to unseat a political superstar.

Just a few weeks ago, Australia was in the vanguard of nations that had enjoyed early success in containing the coronavirus. Now, the deadly flareup in Melbourne serves as a cautionary tale of just how difficult it is to control an outbreak second time around.

Three weeks into the lockdown, the death toll is mounting and infections continue to rise with a record 723 cases announced by Victoria state on Thursday.

The steep infection curve confirms suspicions that strict social distancing measures — which helped curb first waves across Asia and Europe earlier this year — are becoming ineffective as the pandemic heads into its eighth month and people become weary of the disruption.

The virus is exposing socioeconomic fault lines and the insecurity of casual jobs on the minimum wage. It's a lot harder to stay home with a head cold if you can't afford to miss a few days' work.

And then there are the people who are losing patience with physical isolation and simply won't follow the rules.

The frustration in the voice of state Premier Daniel Andrews is palpable. "Unless everyone plays their part, this lockdown will not end anytime soon," he said this week. "There are still some people who, for whatever reason, whether it be frustration, fatigue, whether it be some of those economic hardship issues, are making the wrong choice."

As my colleague Angus Whitley writes, lockdown fatigue could leave little in the arsenal for governments as they battle flareups from Hong Kong to Spain and Vietnam.

'Crusher' Collins

Meet the woman with what might be the hardest task in politics: trying to dethrone New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Sept. 19 election.

New National Party leader Judith Collins — nicknamed "Crusher Collins" after her spell as a hard-line police minister — says she is undaunted by the task, despite trailing Ardern's Labour government by double digits in opinion polls.

The election comes as New Zealand faces its biggest economic challenge in generations, with unemployment set to surge after border closures killed off international tourism.

Jacinda Ardern, left, and Judith Collins.

Winter Woes

The outbreak in Melbourne is ringing alarm bells for epidemiologists bracing for the onslaught of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The resurgence of the virus in the city indicates the risks of people sheltering from colder weather in enclosed spaces.

Public health officials, who have warned about a possible resurgence in Europe and the U.S. when the weather turns colder, are closely watching the situation in Australia. —Edward Johnson

What We're Reading 

A few things from around the world that caught our attention:

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