Getting to grips with . . .

How Melbourne became a case study for defeating coronavirus

Complex modelling and the world’s longest lockdown have paved way for return to near-normal life

As cities around the globe race to curb Covid through vaccine drives, Melbourne has followed a different route to get rid of the virus without jabs - and then stay infection free.

Australia as a whole has recorded relatively few coronavirus deaths and infections, with just under 29,000 cases and just over 900 related deaths, according to latest figures from John Hopkins University.  

But the country’s third largest city stands out in providing “a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic”, says The Washington Post. Melbourne “shows that success in containing the virus isn’t limited to East Asian states... or those with authoritarian leaders”.

At the start of the global pandemic, Australia quickly sealed its borders, a step initially eschewed in Europe. Australian health officials also rapidly built up systems to track and isolate outbreaks, with the nation’s states either shutting their domestic borders or severely limiting interstate movement.

In arguably the “most important” move of all, the paper adds, “leaders from across the ideological spectrum persuaded Australians to take the pandemic seriously early on and prepared them to give up civil liberties”.

That strategy has seen Melbourne become the jewel in Australia’s Covid-crown. The coastal capital of the southeastern state of Victoria implemented “one of the world’s longest lockdowns” that saw “virtually everything that wasn’t a grocery store or hospital closed for nearly four months”, CBC reports.

Experts at the University of Melbourne also deployed computer modelling “of mind-bending complexity” that “modelled 1,000 scenarios, such as teenagers returning to Melbourne schools on a given date, or what would happen if a particular industry re-opened on another date”, The Times reports.

The modelling team “even took into account how tired people were of lockdown and their financial worries”. Clinical psychologist Jason Thompson - the brains behind the planning - told the paper that this all-encompassing approach meant “we were able to show political leaders risks associated with decisions that lifted us out of restrictions too early”.

Melbourne is currently hosting the world’s best tennis players for the Australian Open after taking urgent action to prevent a fresh outbreak. 

The city recently entered a five-day “snap lockdown” in response to “a cluster of 19 cases” that emerged after “a person working at a Melbourne hotel housing quarantined cases unknowingly caught the UK variant of the virus”, the BBC reports.

Following the end of that lockdown yesterday, life is again returning to near-normal in the city as the world watches - and looks to learn from the city’s example.

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