Why Social Distancing Will Fail in Australia Post Lockdown
Posted on May 4, 2020
The average room in an Australian abode is 3 metres tall. Now ask someone to project that vision flat on the ground and tell you where they need to stand to be approximately 1.5 metres apart.
Most won’t get it right for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re terrible at math and won’t know the answer means standing at the two extremes of that plane. Secondly, they just won’t believe the answer—because nowhere in their lives, during the Covid-19 lockdown or prior, have they ever had to consistently experience it.
Not queuing up for Job Seeker assistance, nor in the isles of their supermarket; not walking a path in a crowded park, nor in the good old days on public transport. Definitely not at home particularly given the living space of older houses and the newest apartments cramming as many shoe boxes per floor for a buck.
Then comes the crux.
Not due to the mixed messaging of governments telling them that social distancing is so important, you don’t need it in schools. You definitely don’t need it if you’re Donald Trump. You don’t need it if you’re protesting. And you don’t need it debarking a ship-of-death for your plane flight home.
You also don’t need it if you’re on field playing rugby or football so long as you’re generating TV and ad revenue along the way.
Nah, sport doesn’t influence social behaviour at all.
And given that the official message of Covid-19 is that it’s a disease of the aged and infirm—you definitely don’t need it if you’re fit, 40 or younger.
And that’s why the stupidity of crowds at Bondi Beach forced New South Wales into a true lockdown over April. And this weekend we’ve seen parks overflowing in Queensland and house parties flouting assembly laws as lockdowns have begun to ease. We’ve seen religious groups of all faiths seeking congregations. And most insidious of all—we’ve heard calls by China-centric billionaires to bring all lockdowns to an end.
After all, the Australian government’s COVIDapp will only warn you if you’ve been in proximity of a known Covid carrier for 15-minutes or longer. What difference does it make if you’ve rubbed shoulders in a shopping centre for 10?
And that’s how you lose a war.
We are at war: with a killer virus that has no treatment or cure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again using Australia as the example, States do not fight wars. Only nations do. That requires 1 leader, 1 overriding strategy and 1 message for the troops. It’s ok for generals to fight with their supreme leader behind closed doors, but it never reaches the front. That’s because confused soldiers don’t use their weapons. Confused soldiers don’t act for their unit’s good. Confused soldiers mutiny. And confused soldiers die.
Australians have been conscripted into a fight for their lives and futures. But they need leadership to first beat their enemy so that they can receive a future to rebuild.
Absent of a treatment or cure, Covid-19 requires them to stay in lockdown for as long as it takes. If they are to live socially distant, then they do it everywhere—at school, at work and in their entertainment.
Australia can survive a year without traditional classroom education, it can survive a season without NRL, AFL and cricket. For goodness sake, what an insult to our 2020 Olympians to think otherwise after they’ve just made the greatest sacrifice of their lives.
Australia can win if its message is simple, consistent and applicable—to all. No more private jet jaunts by media tycoons without isolation in a hotel at the end.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is a highly religious man. So, let me change tack to finally sell my argument with a parable and one I believe in too.
I’ll now talk to him.
ScoMo, God helps those who help themselves. Yes, that’s not in the Bible of course, so let’s be more scriptural:
A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord. (Proverbs 21: 31)
You’ve got to climb that horse, ScoMo, and charge so the Lord can do the rest. Or more appropriately, as Joseph said to his brothers who’d sold him into slavery in Egypt:
Now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without ploughing or harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. (Genesis 45: 5-8)
Thusly, you can talk to the electorate about Covid-19:
Do not be angry with yourselves for the burden you’ve placed on me because God sent me knowing there would be a terrible health crisis that would last yet another year. God sent me to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore stay inside.
Which means ScoMo, just keep your message unequivocal. Disseminate it with confidence and stand up to your generals and backers who demand contrary designs.
Nothing good will happen unless you saddle up and ride with fury though a rain of arrows to keep it locked down.
That’s why they say, it’s lonely at the front.
UPDATE MAY 8, 2020—A THREE-STEP RETURN BASED ON BEHAVIOUR
ScoMo this morning, announced the support of the National Cabinet for a phased 3-Step return to some economic normalcy given the presence of Covid-19 that will still persist.
With all 3 steps set to range from now till sometime in July, Step 1 will cautiously see the return of small numbers of friendly gatherings to homes, small cafes reopening and intra-state travel among others.
I’ll give kudos to its planers, as its success and the move on to Step 2 will hinge on Australians showing careful compliance with social distancing, hygiene and testing even if slightly ill. Everything—depends on a commitment to unselfishness on the part of multiple generations.
So, mitigation is built into this model. Each State and Territory will control the phasing in of each step and the ability to “cut and paste” among their menus (that quote from ScoMo). Proper social behaviour will be as critical as the number of new cases showing up in determining each leader’s willingness to free things further along.
This will be true, whether or not July remains a valid timeframe for full implementation. Whereas, I foresee September-October as the more realistic window to first gauge how the rest of the world is faring with their less well-thought-out societal Covid approaches, and the degree of risk they pose to Australia’s front door.
© 2020 Adam Parker.