Australia Tony Abbott says Victoria's coronavirus lockdown is the most severe tried in the world outside Wuhan. Is he correct?

03:46  01 october  2020
03:46  01 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Mr Abbott then said the Victorian Government' s "extraordinary ineptitude" in managing its hotel quarantine system had produced the biggest outbreak in Australia so far, "responded to with the most severe lockdown tried anywhere in the world outside of Wuhan itself".

He accused Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews of wanting to extend a "health dictatorship" by Mr Abbott said in hindsight, there had not been enough attention paid to keeping coronavirus out of aged care facilities. But he questioned a strategy that he argued had been adopted by most countries, of preserving Mr Abbott would not comment on reports that he is set to join Britain' s Board of Trade.

The claim

Critics of Victoria's COVID-19 lockdown have argued the rules are too strict, reaping benefits insufficient to justify the freedoms lost.

On September 1, 2020, during a in London, former prime minister Tony Abbott labelled Victoria a "health dictatorship" and called for restrictions to be eased to afford people more personal responsibility.

Mr Abbott then the Victorian Government's "extraordinary ineptitude" in managing its hotel quarantine system had produced the biggest outbreak in Australia so far, "responded to with the most severe lockdown tried anywhere in the world outside of Wuhan itself".

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The lockdown in Wuhan , the Chinese city where the global coronavirus outbreak began, will be partially lifted on 8 April, officials say . Meanwhile, health experts say Americans must limit their social interactions or the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system in the US.

Residents in Wuhan said only those from compounds deemed virus-free were allowed to leave and that citizens were still wary of going out onto the The loosening of restrictions in Wuhan came as other nations intensified their response to the virus. In the US, President Donald Trump activated the

So, barring Wuhan, China, is Victoria's lockdown the toughest attempted anywhere in the world?

The verdict

Mr Abbott's claim is wrong.

Many governments adopted individual policies similar to Victoria's such as curfews and stay-home orders.

Some rules were even stricter. For example, Spain and Argentina banned outdoor exercise entirely while Israel limited walks to within 100 metres of home.

Meanwhile, Chile allowed only twice-weekly shop visits, and both South Africa and India banned the sale of alcohol.

And whereas New Zealand prohibited takeaway food and drinks, Victorians could at least still visit their local cafe to pick up a coffee.

Melbourne was not alone when it came to quarantining buildings, either, with the German city of Göttingen and a number of Indian cities sealing off entire apartment blocks.

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The coronavirus pandemic is prompting unprecedented measures around the world . From Spain to the US, governments are taking action to try to reduce the spread of the virus. As the situation deteriorated, a strict lockdown was first implemented in Wuhan , the outbreak' s epicentre and one of

More than a fifth of the world ' s population has been under lockdown in the global fight against coronavirus , with early signs of success. There are also millions living hand-to-mouth who work in the informal economy and there severe worries about how they will survive the loss of work.

At the time of Mr Abbott's claim, Victoria had not had the longest lockdown.

Melburnians had so far spent 31 days under the state's toughest stage 4 restrictions.

By contrast, residents of greater Buenos Aires had been stuck at home for 166 days straight. Santiago's lockdown lasted 94 days — and even longer for seniors.

Nine countries had kept strict, countrywide stay-home orders in place for at least 50 days running. That included Honduras, whose lockdown stretched for 159 days.

According to a comparative "stringency index" developed by academics at Oxford University, 14 countries achieved the maximum possible score for the overall severity of their lockdowns.

While smaller jurisdictions such as Victoria are not included on the index, Fact Check has calculated that it would not have reached the maximum.

By Fact Check's reckoning, 37 countries scored the same as or higher than Victoria at various times during the pandemic.

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What made it even more alarming, says radio presenter Pagani, was that the first person to have coronavirus was “a real sporty type and healthy” He worked for a global business with offices and production centres around the world . He is now recovering, but a chain of infections had followed

He said that China "needs the world ' s solidarity and support," and that " the world is pulling Most forms of traffic have been banned, and 11 million people are shut up in their homes, trying to "This is the first day since the lockdown that I've had to go out ," a man in his 50 s told the AFP news agency

Of those, 21 had sustained those scores for longer than Victoria's stage 4 lockdown when Mr Abbott made his claim.

Victoria's response

Mr Abbott said Victoria responded to its second wave outbreak with the "most severe lockdown" tried outside Wuhan, where Chinese officials were welding residents' front doors shut to contain the virus.

Victoria imposed restrictions on March 30 and on June 1. Within weeks, cases .

In response, the State Government ordered residents in several to stay home from July 1, before to all of Melbourne and regional Mitchell Shire from July 9.

The state entered at 6pm on August 2, with Melbourne moving to "stage 4" and all of regional Victoria "stage 3" (from midnight on August 5).

Under , residents could leave home only for work, exercise, buying essentials, or giving and receiving care.

Travel was limited to 5km from home unless absolutely necessary, exercise limited to one hour per day, and shop visits restricted to one person per household per day.

However, exercise could be done with one other person, and though home visits were banned, exceptions applied for "compassionate reasons" and visiting partners.

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Johnson said that after that point, the government will relax the rules “if the evidence shows we are On Monday, Italy recorded a slight reduction in the number of coronavirus deaths, two weeks after … just when we need it the most . Millions of readers around the world are flocking to the Guardian in

It is thought that the outbreak originated at a market in the city of Wuhan , Hubei province, selling wild animals. But experts warn that until full clinical trials have taken place it is unclear how safe or effective the vaccines will be and it could still be months before they can be made widely available.

Even stricter rules applied between 8pm and 5am, during which time the only reasons to leave the house were work, caregiving or medical care.

Schools and childcare centres were closed to all but a few children, and many businesses were forced to close or reduce their staffing, with issued for each industry.

Still, retail stores remained open for "click and collect" services, while customers could still visit cafes and restaurants for takeaway food and coffee.

Locking down buildings

Mr Abbott referred to the most severe lockdown tried anywhere in the world.

Arguably Victoria's most severe measure was on July 4, when police surprised residents of nine public housing towers with an immediate lockdown "at all times" that, for some, would last .

Premier Daniel Andrews the "complete" lockdown meant there would "be no reason for any of those residents to leave their home".

Locking down individual buildings is not unique to Victoria, however. In Germany, local authorities 700 residents of an apartment block in the city of Göttingen while they were tested for COVID-19, sparking with police.

India a system of allowing authorities to "seal" individual buildings or floors. On the day of Mr Abbott's claim, were sealed in Mumbai alone.

Fact Check has considered India's lockdown in more detail,

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Limiting movement

On other measures, too, Melbourne's stage 4 rules were not exceptional.

Many governments established nightly curfews during the pandemic, including , , , , , and the US

Exceptions for 24-hour stay-home orders varied between countries, but Victoria's 5km limit for an hour of exercise was far from the strictest. In Israel, for example, walks were only permitted "for a short time" of home.

In Spain, children were not allowed outside to exercise . It was even longer for adults, though exceptions were made for .

Similarly, Argentina banned outdoor exercise for more than a month, eventually allowing walks within a

Fact Check has also taken a closer look at Argentina's restrictions,

Buying 'essentials'

Some countries cracked down on what Victorians might consider "essential" items, which were still available in Melbourne even during stage 4.

New Zealand takeaway coffee and food, for example, unless from petrol stations.

Argentina also the face-to-face sale of takeaway, meaning cafe visits were not allowed.

India placed a on the sale of alcohol and tobacco. Both and Nuuk, the banned alcohol sales during the pandemic too.

And, when it came to grocery shopping, Victorians were at least permitted one visit per day.

The same couldn't be said for Chile, where people in lockdown required permits to go out, and were only allowed per week.

The full effect?

Fact Check has also examined data from the Coronavirus Government Response Tracker, published by Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government, to assess the overall severity of restrictions tried around the world.

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The tracker covers 185 countries and includes a that seeks to quantify the combined strictness of policies over time.

Toby Phillips, Head of Research and Policy with Digital Pathways at Oxford, told Fact Check the tracker relied on official government sources as a "first preference" but also sourced information from international media reports where these were unavailable.

The tracker awards each country an overall stringency score based on indicators for nine ; for example, school closures, travel restrictions or stay-home requirements.

Each indicator , with the results averaged to produce the final score.

Notably, these indicators reflect the most stringent policy adopted anywhere in the country. If a policy only applies to part of the country — for example, an individual state — the indicator is "weighted lower" when calculating the overall index score.

The tracker necessarily adopts a limited range of indicators and scores that capture the nuance of some countries' restrictions better than others.

How would Victoria score?

While Mr Abbott compared the rest of the world with Victoria, the tracker only gives a score to Australia as a whole.

Mr Phillips said that if state-level data were assessed, "the Victoria-only score would be higher [than Australia's] because there would be no downward adjustment to reflect non-lockdown states".

At the time of Mr Abbott's claim, Australia's to-date was 79.2, recorded in August when Victoria implemented stage 4 restrictions. Before Victoria's second outbreak, the peak for Australia was 73.2, recorded during April.

Fact Check has applied the tracker's methodology to calculate a score for Victoria, finding its stage 4 restrictions would have scored 94.4.

This reflects maximum scores as follows:

  • Closing all levels of schools;
  • Forcing all non-essential workers to work from home;
  • Cancelling public events;
  • Restricting gatherings to 10 people or less;
  • Requiring people to stay home, with minimal exceptions;
  • Restricting movement within Melbourne and Victoria;
  • Banning international travel
  • Running a coordinated public information campaign.

The state did not achieve a maximum score for public transport restrictions as its operations were but not shut down.

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How does it compare?

Since Mr Abbott compared Victoria's lockdown to those "tried" anywhere in the world, Fact Check has analysed since the start of the pandemic.

By September 1, the data shows, 31 countries had surpassed Victoria's maximum, while another six countries had matched it.

Those 31 countries included New Zealand, with a score of 96.3, and 14 countries whose stringency scores reached 100 — the maximum possible.


Whose lasted longer?

Fact Check has also analysed the stringency data to show the duration of these lockdowns.

Before Mr Abbott made his claim, Mr Andrews he expected stage 4 restrictions to last for at least six weeks.

At the time of Mr Abbott's claim, 21 countries had sustained their strictest measures for longer than Melbourne's 31 days of stage 4 lockdown.


Duration of stay-home orders

Looking only at stay-home measures, many countries outlasted Victoria when it came to the tracker's rating for "minimal exceptions" for going outside.

It shows Honduras had these in place for 159 days straight.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan spent a total of 103 days with strict , including stretches of 50 and 48 days.

By contrast, when Mr Abbott made his claim, Melbourne's toughest stage 4 restrictions had been in place for 31 days.

As noted, the tracker's score for each country reflects the strictest measures in force anywhere in the territory.

While this score is adjusted when the geographic scope is limited, for example to a single state, the tracker does not show whether that was always the same part of the country over time.

For this reason, Fact Check has limited its comparison of the duration data to countries whose measures applied nationwide.

That means the numbers do not cover stay-home orders in particular regions or cities.

In Chile, for example, the capital Santiago under for from May 15. Nationwide, people were placed under "preventive quarantine" for .



What happened in Argentina?

Argentina offers an example of how other countries imposed restrictions at least as severe as those in Victoria — and, in some cases, for much longer.

In March, the government all Argentinians to remain at home for a period of "social, preventive and compulsory isolation".

This meant residents could only leave the house for "minimal and essential trips" for food, medicines and cleaning supplies.

Shopping centres and non-essential businesses were closed, though some retailers continued to operate, such as suppliers of fuels and hardware.

While Melburnians could drive within their five kilometre limit, only in Argentina could use the roads.

Local public transport continued for essential workers only, subject to a on passenger capacity, and long distance transport services were

Schools and childcare centres

Restaurants could offer takeaway services but, unlike in Melbourne, this was restricted to only, with face-to-face services prohibited.

Notably, outdoor exercise was banned for the first five weeks of lockdown (March 20 to April 26). The rules were eventually to accommodate one-hour walks — but only between 8am and 8pm and within 500 metres of home.

Even then, running and cycling was in Buenos Aires. Children in the capital several more weeks before they were allowed outside, on .

Though local authorities some restrictions during May and June, they were quickly .

At the time of Mr Abbott's claim, residents in the capital had remained under stay-home orders for in a row.


What happened in India?

India went into a nationwide lockdown on March 24 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi that "from midnight tonight, a complete ban is being imposed on people from stepping out of their homes".

Police in the capital New Delhi that people were "required to stay home and come out only for basic needs within the vicinity of their residence".

Under the , all schools and non-essential businesses were forced to close or arrange for staff to work from home.

Food and grocery stores continued to operate, though the guidelines suggested district authorities could "encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimise the movement of individuals outside their homes".

At the same time, "all transport services" were by the national government, including travel by air, rail and metro, as well as by road, with few exceptions. Private buses, taxis and rickshaws were also banned, the Delhi Police said.

Meanwhile, funerals could go ahead with strict 20 person limits, but all other gatherings were prohibited.

India's government that states could not "dilute" the national rules but "could impose stricter measures" depending on local requirements. This saw local police for taking a walk or going for runs.

Later, when the lockdown was extended, the national government placed a on selling alcohol and tobacco.

As restrictions began to ease in some areas, the government instituted its of containment zones for sealing off potential outbreaks. These could be virtually any size within a district, the government , and allow "no movement of population in or out" except for essential services.

Principal researcher: , with Sonam Thomas



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