London’s Financial Times, in a leading article on Sunday headed Fatal Flaws in Australia’s hermit nation strategy, says this country “now faces a costly round of restrictions as it struggles to protect a largely unimmunised population from outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant”.
This strident critique will add weight to arguments attacking the vaccine rollout and put Prime Minister Scott Morrison under even greater pressure to get on top of the worst cascading political crisis he’s faced since the bushfire disasters of 2019/20.
Backing an assessment by a Sydney University study on the impact of Australia’s closed borders, The Financial Times says the social and economic costs, especially for younger people, were too high to justify the policies.
“The wider lesson for a world facing ever more virus variants, is that glacial vaccine rollouts spell disaster, no matter how rich or hermetically sealed a country may be,” concludes the newspaper in one of its harshest criticisms of this country.
The Financial Times says Prime Minister Scott Morrison was wrong to say getting vaccine supplies into the community was “not a race” with the current crisis in New South Wales cited as the cost of that attitude.
“Sydney, home to a fifth of the nation’s 25m people, is entering its third week of a lockdown due to stay in place until July 16,” says the FT. “Australia now stands as a warning to other nations, not least neighbouring New Zealand, that a fortress approach to the virus cannot succeed in the absence of an effective vaccine programme.”
While criticising British prime minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen next week, the paper contrasts the UK’s effort on vaccines with that of Australia.
“While Australia’s stadiums and restaurants stayed full, and theatregoers thronged to Hamilton, the UK was doing one thing Canberra was too slow to organise: a successful Covid vaccine rollout,” says the paper.
The Financial Times says Morrison’s attitude to returning travellers and their quarantine when they arrive back in Australia has a high price as well.
“The human toll has also been considerable,” says the newspaper. “Thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad since the pandemic began, unable to secure scarce, expensive seats on commercial flights that were limited even before the latest caps were announced.
“More government repatriation flights are planned to ease the impact of the latest arrival limits. But this will not help those affected by Australia’s highly unusual decision to restrict its own citizens from leaving the country, a step designed to relieve pressure from returning travellers on its quarantine system.
“That system itself is another sign of complacency. Canberra only belatedly backed the construction of safer, purpose-built quarantine facilities, long after it was clear the virus had spread in hotels converted to house returned travellers.”
Here is the nub of The Financial Times’s sharp criticism of Australia and its record of handling the coronavirus pandemic:
“One day a rooster, the next a feather duster,” it says. “That terse reminder that success can be fleeting has long been popular in Australia. For the leaders of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, it has become regrettably apt.”