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"The fence at the top is working." The analogy that proves Australia didn't overreact to COVID-19.

Australia is succeeding in flattening the curve of COVID-19.

On Wednesday morning, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australian coronavirus infections have maintained an average growth rate of under one per cent over the past ten days.

He told Sunrise that over the past three days, the growth rate has fallen to just 0.5 per cent.

“So, all of that means, as a country, we are making huge progress,” he explained.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has “no plans” to change COVID restrictions in the next couple of weeks. Post continues below video.

Video via 9News

While social distancing measures will be around for months to come, some strict restrictions are already being scaled back: Some beaches in Queensland and NSW are being reopened for exercise and on Tuesday, the National Cabinet agreed to lift some restrictions on elective surgery after Anzac Day.

Our hospitals are – thankfully – not flooded with patients. Currently, ICUs are not struggling to find enough ventilators for those in a serious condition, and though any death is tragic, on paper, 74 Australian lives sadly lost to the virus is a small number in comparison to international death tolls in the tens of thousands.

We are not out of the woods, and the risk of a second wave is real, but by all accounts Australia’s tough social distancing and self-isolation measures are currently working as intended.

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Image: Getty.
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This has afforded us a privilege many around the world are not able to have: Criticism from some commentators and members of the public that our government overreacted.

It's a view that has been strongly voiced by commentator Andrew Bolt and many of his followers since late March. On March 27, Bolt said the federal government's closure of non-essential businesses and social distancing rules was "burning down the country in order to save it".

Of course, there is valid concern for Australia's economy both now in our current lockdown state and looking forward into the future. The entire world will be dealing with the economic fallout of COVID-19 for years and years.

Going hard with closed businesses is undoubtedly damaging for businesses and employees, but its purpose is to allow us to get the virus under control quickly. If all goes to plan, this should allow Australia's workforce to get back to work quicker and safer than other nations around the world.

On April 17, Bolt again argued in his News Corp column the government had gone too far: "Yes, governments saved some of us from dying. But they haven't saved us from a massive over-reaction."

Earlier in April, The Institute of Public Affairs released a video arguing that Australia should reopen churches, restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms.

"Our response to the coronavirus outbreak has decimated our society, ruined thousands of lives, turned Australia into a police state and, worst of all, put hundreds of thousands of Australians out of work," policy director Gideon Rozner said.

"Enough is enough. It is time to begin to end this lockdown now."

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But the argument shows a cognitive dissonance, perhaps best summed up in a tweet from Clarke Gayford, the partner of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - who has faced similar criticism from commentators in her country.

"The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is empty because the fence at the top is working," Gayford wrote.

The modelling shown to the federal and state governments suggested anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of deaths could have happened in Australia, which has not happened. That is the desired result.

There is a reason our hospitals are managing. There is a reason our curve has flattened. It's due to the government reaction, not in spite of it.

The restrictions have been entirely successful thus far in:

  • Flattening Australia's curve very quickly
  • Keeping our health system from being overwhelmed
  • Largely containing the virus and stopping any rampant community spread
  • Keeping a low fatality rate

To repeal them too quickly would be catastrophic: A growth rate of just 2.5 people per infected case would once again make our curve exponential. We wouldn't be right back where we started - we would be at a point much worse.

Meanwhile, things are drastically - tragically - different in other countries, like the United Kingdom.

There is no question of 'what if we overreacted' in the UK, which was much slower to react to the coronavirus on its shores.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially hesitated to approve stringent lockdown controls like most of his European counterparts, but eventually put the country into lockdown for three weeks on March 23, after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die.

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Image: Getty.

Since then, he himself could have died in ICU after contracting the virus. On April 16, the lockdown was extended for another three weeks.

Britain has the fifth-highest official death toll from COVID-19 in the world, after the United States, Italy, Spain and France. It could in fact be higher, as the UK figure only covers hospital fatalities and not those who died at home.

So far, almost 18,000 Brits have died in hospitals with lawmakers now being told to prepare for 40,000 deaths.

Commentators and experts in Britain are, rightly, scrutinising the government's decisions and late response.

The British do not have the privilege of wondering if they overreacted.

Australia has deployed its parachute and it is slowing our decent, now is not the time to cut the strings.

Feature images: Getty.

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