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The pandemic

What a miserable place Australia is

A police officer enforcing social-distancing measures in Perth last year. Paul Kane/Getty Images

Australia’s “zero-Covid strategy” illustrates the dangers of single-mindedness, says Louise Perry in The New Statesman. Obsessed with clamping down on transmission, the country has established authoritarian policies that have caused ample “human misery”. One woman, Sarah Haider, experienced pregnancy complications while quarantining in Brisbane – her baby was delivered “behind a surgical curtain” and she wasn’t able to hold or even look at him afterwards. With infections tightly controlled, few people have direct experience of the virus, so most believe the “alarmist reporting” in the Australian media. “It is easy to overestimate the threat of an unknown danger.”

Contrary to its image of carefree barbecuing gaiety, Australia has always had an authoritarian streak. Importing plant or animal products is almost impossible. When Johnny Depp took his dogs Pistol and Boo with him to Australia in 2015, he was told that if he did not remove the animals from the country within 72 hours, they would be put down. It is illegal to cycle without a helmet in Australia, and illegal to cross the road at an intersection if a pedestrian light is red. As the Australian critic Clive James once said, the problem with his countrymen isn’t “that so many of them are descended from convicts, but that so many are descended from prison officers”. 

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