Mark Dolan: Are lockdown-under leaders out of control in Australia and New Zealand?

The Australian authorities have said that protesting is not acceptable

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The last 24 hours have seen a horrific collapse in public order, a disregard for human rights, scenes of violence towards innocent people and rule by a mob of out of control leaders, drunk on power. Afghanistan? No. Australia.

Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison, leader of the Liberal Party – how ironic, continues to pursue a ruinous zero Covid strategy, with a lockdown inflicted on the people of the capital Canberra, after just one case. Cases have never been high in Australia and yet they've had a year and a half of these economically ruinous and socially damaging lockdowns. So yesterday thousands took to the streets to protest as armed cops wrestled previously law-abiding citizens to the ground and even used pepper spray and, it’s being reported, rubber bullets, on members of the public.

The Australian authorities have said that protesting is not acceptable. You'll have to forgive me. I normally keep an eye on world news, but I didn’t realise Australia isn't a democracy anymore, or a free society. I didn’t get the memo.

And neither did the people of Melbourne and Sydney by the looks of it. I didn't realise Australia, one of the most dynamic, integrated, creative and economically successful nations on earth, had become a totalitarian dictatorship. Meanwhile things go from bad to worse in New Zealand, with one of their main police forces sending this eerie tweet, with saintly PM the right reverend Jacinda Ardern reminding people not to talk to their neighbours.

There is even talk about splitting the country in TWO to fight Indian Delta outbreak as it records another, wait for it, 21 Covid cases. These people, love to divide. With no prospect of getting back to normal for months if not years to come, Australia and New Zealand are a salutary lesson in what happens if you try to stop a virus like Covid, especially the Delta variant.

Don't take my word for it. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford, and Donald J. Boodro, a professor of economics at George Mason University, call the eradication of Covid “a dangerous and expensive fantasy”. Tim Wallace in The Telegraph warns that “zero-Covid zealotry” is wreaking economic “havoc”, with economists slashing forecasts for China and Australia due to their strict approaches. Virus gonna virus, who knew? Last month, Singapore abandoned its zero-Covid stance.

Like New Zealand, it had attempted to block the spread of the coronavirus with strict border controls, a mask mandate, enforced social distancing and “aggressive” contact-tracing. Leaders in Singapore have since eased restrictions and are now aiming for a “living with Covid” strategy, after concluding that the disease will not be eradicated, as new variants continue to emerge. No sugar sherlock. Mercifully the narrative has changed here in the UK. Not only did the PM stick to freedom day on the 19th July and see cases fall, common sense is beginning to prevail elsewhere in the broadcast media. Even the BBC – yes the BBC - published this article today.

Whilst the vaccine is effective against severe illness and hospitalisation, it has seemingly little impact on transmission, which means that the idea of Covid passports is dead on arrival. For the months and years to come, living with this virus is going to be the only show in town. Zero Covid leads to zero economy, zero society, zero freedom and zero democracy. If Australia continue to pursue this ruinous, cruel and scientifically debatable strategy of endless lockdowns, this famous home of the boomerang, will never come back.