Australia was a COVID-19 success story — until it wasn’t.

After months of near-normal, 80% of Australians are back under lockdown, says CNN. The new restrictions have swept across the country, aiming to contain recent outbreaks driven by the coronavirus delta variant.

Where did Australia go wrong?

Australia’s defenses against COVID-19 outbreaks seemed impenetrable — border closures, mandatory quarantine hotels, extensive contact tracing and strict social distancing, reports BBC. More transmissible variants exposed the small cracks in these defenses.

  • Fully masked nurses, police officers and soldiers would meet anyone arriving in Australia ready to escort them to quarantine hotels, says BBC. However, transportation drivers to quarantine hotels did not need to wear masks — and one of these drivers became ‘patient zero’ for the recent outbreaks.
  • At quarantine hotels, BBC reports, poor air recirculation and lack of fresh air may have spread infections within the hotel.

Vaccination campaigns in Australia have also lagged. Only 5% of the population is fully vaccinated and 29% of the population is partially vaccinated, says BBC.

  • Difficulties securing enough vaccines and public complacency toward vaccinations have contributed to the low rates, says CNN.
  • Australia did not secure early vaccine deals with large pharmaceutical companies like other wealthy nations, reports CNN.
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How serious are Australia’s recent outbreaks?

Within one week, COVID-19 cases in Australia surged by more than 100 cases, says BBC. Now, the country has 217 active cases with the delta strain driving the outbreak.

  • Within households, virus transmission has reached almost 100%, says Al Jazeera.
  • Even with strict contract tracing, Australia has recorded cases with no identifiable link to a known infection, says CNN.

People have become infected by passing one another in the shop, reports BBC.

What is Australia’s lockdown like?

Australia has not announced a nationwide lockdown, but an increasing number of cities have reimposed lockdowns for their residents, says CNN. Now, nearly 20 million out of Australia’s population of 25 million people have gone into lockdown again.

  • “Prior to this, it’s been wonderful. You’re going out to dinner, you’re going to shows with thousands of people,” said Nancy Baxter, a professor at the University of Melbourne, per BBC.
  • “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to do that again until we’re all vaccinated, because there’s too much of a risk,” Baxter said per BBC. “I just think we can’t live like COVID doesn’t exist any more.”
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