In the Australian state of New South Wales, residents are dealing with an outbreak of the COVID-19 delta variant so serious that the top elected state official is urging citizens to rat on one another. Things are so dire that its top public health official wants you to stop having conversations with other people.
And who could blame them? After all, the state — Australia’s most populous and home to Sydney — reported 321 new cases on Saturday.
No, I’m not missing a zero or three there. On Aug. 6, 321 people tested positive for coronavirus. According to government data, 81 lives have been lost in NSW so far during the pandemic.
And yet, parts of the state are currently in nearly total lockdown, with stay-at-home orders for the Greater Sydney area and people only able to leave their home if they “have a reasonable excuse” — including obtaining food, going to work, getting medical treatment and exercising, according to the state government website.
No visitors to your residence unless you live alone — in which case, you can have a “nominated visitor,” provided they aren’t a nominated visitor for someone else. Places of worship aren’t open to the public. Outdoor gatherings are limited to two people. Most retail outlets are closed.
And for rule-breakers, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is encouraging citizens to turn them in.
“Can I also stress that people should expect a greater police presence, a greater focus on compliance because we know the recurring incidents where the disease is transferring — it’s in workplaces and it’s within households,” she said on July 27, after the lockdown was extended another month.
“We really need people to do the right thing at all times.”
The language was practically like something out of the Soviet Union:
“Do not let your guard down. If you see somebody not doing the right thing, please, report it,” she said. “When any of us see anything which is not according to the health rules, or you see even in your own workplace, report it.
“We can’t put up with people continuing to do the wrong thing because it’s setting us all back.”
Earlier in July, Berejiklian used even stronger language toward those who felt they were being “scapegoated” by the government.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like that. But if you are not doing the right thing, please know that we will have to have the law come down on you, because the simple fact is, people doing the wrong thing means that all of us suffer,” she said, according to the U.K.’s Guardian.
While Dr. Kerry Chant isn’t encouraging anyone to report others for breaking the rules, the chief health officer in NSW would prefer you didn’t talk to other people for a while.
“Whilst it is in human nature to engage in conversation with others, to be friendly, unfortunately this is not the time to do that … don’t start up a conversation,” Chant said during a July media briefing, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“We want to make sure as we go about our daily lives that we do not come into contact with anyone who could pose a risk.”
Kerry Chant says friendliness is not allowed: “Whilst it is in human nature to engage in conversation with others, to be friendly, unfortunately this is not the time to do that.” #SydneyLockdown #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/gKC5ZRunID
— Erin Churchill (@erintheboss) July 20, 2021
This is supposed to be a country with spiders the size of your arm with venom that can blind a man at 30 yards. Yet, as of mid-July, The Sydney Morning Herald reported this lockdown was over an outbreak that had killed, at that point, four people.
Yet, the paper reported on July 18, Berejiklian said she was determined to “crush this thing” no matter what the steep personal toll may be.
“I am not embarrassed to say that in public life, yesterday was probably the most difficult day I’ve had personally because we don’t take these decisions lightly,” she said after introducing further restrictions.
“I am convinced that working together we will start to see those numbers nudge and are throwing all of our resources and efforts to making that happen and I just want to thank the community for their cooperation,” she added.
And if you don’t cooperate, well, she’ll have one of the good comrades tell on you.
Australia is determined to hit a gnat with a bazooka when it comes to the delta variant, particularly in New South Wales. This would ordinarily be cause for alarm — but the situation is far less tenable when the premier of an entire state wants its citizens to snitch as if they were in the Soviet Union, where that kind of behavior is rewarded.
If it’s rewarded in Australia, too, what the country emerges from the pandemic with may be far more dangerous than COVID-19 ever was. This is how freedom dies: fear and ignorance.
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