Over 130K Victorians have just finished registering for a social media initiative, started by Christian Bernstein, to send Premier Daniel Andrews a virtual hug. He is, undoubtedly, in the worst position possible, leading a state through a pandemic. The exhaustion is now clearly showing on his face during the regular COVID-19 updates.
On the other hand, many people have lost faith in his leadership and pandemic-related decisions. Some went as far to suggest giving his wife a chance at the leadership as she may do a better job considering her gender and ability to multitask. From bungling of the hotel quarantine to permitting the Black lives protest, the Premier is under fire for several of his decisions.
Academic Meenu Shrivastava, however, is quick to defend the Premier.
“No current leader has prior experience of dealing with a pandemic and mistakes are bound to happen,” Meenu said.
“Can all those complaining about the harshness of Stage 4 restrictions and its effect on the economy provide any better solution? Why blame the premier for people not doing the right thing? Driving the numbers down is crucial or these restrictions will have to continue indefinitely, forcing us further back in our attempt to stabilise,” said the University teacher who is running online tutorial sessions from home.
Restaurateur Dilpreet Singh, on the other hand, is very unhappy.
“This second lockdown is going to hit harder with my business suffering 80 per cent loss of incomings. I do not see any point in keeping things open and pay for staff, electricity, groceries etc. when hardly anyone comes in,” he said in desolation.
“We now lock up at 8 PM as no one comes in during curfew times to pick up orders and if we rely on delivery chains, they take up a substantial chunk from every order, leaving not much for us to survive on. This weekend’s foot traffic will be the deciding factor on whether we cease operations temporarily or persist on dismal income.”
The meat industry, warehousing and distribution, retail, education and construction sector are all affected with the Stage 4 lockdown. Unemployment is on a high and thousands of workers are without jobs. The flow on effect of these industries being scaled down is causing further speculations, none of which is reassuring.
“Truthfully, I never thought I’d find myself in a position where I’d have to ask people not to go to work,” said Premier Andrews recently. “But right now, that is exactly what we are asking of so many Victorians to help slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
According to the Premier, the decision about where to draw the line on different categories of jobs can never be simple or easy, yet there is no alternative but to take these steps. We must take unprecedented action in limiting the movement of people, and therefore limiting the movement of this virus – to do otherwise would be deadly.
The anti-lockdown protestors and anti-mask conspirators, however, are not with him on this. They wish to fill up the streets to show that they will not give up their livelihoods without a fight. From allegations of violations against human rights to questioning whether the pandemic is infectious to refusing to wear masks, these protestors and groups are actively using social media to show their rejection of rules and restrictions.
Pavan Cheema, Executive Director of Oilseeds Australia, firmly believes in adherence to the advice provided by Public Health experts. According to him, these experts are charged with the responsibility and have the knowledge and access to information that is required to make informed decisions. That in turn makes them and the Premier answerable to the public to admit when things go wrong and the learning involved.
According to Pavan, it is imperative that the policy makers proactively provide clear directions to different interest groups through a simple campaign that takes the message to the larger public.
“They need to be two steps ahead instead of playing catch up and they need to make sure that mistakes are not repeated,” he said.
“All this clamping down is a bit late, I think, but necessary,” feels Simmi Kaur who works in retail and has been told they would not be trading for six weeks. The company she works for is yet to communicate the plan for its employees and her future is uncertain.
“When the first set of lockdowns occurred in March we all enjoyed the novelty of staying home, catching up with chores and relaxing with family. The second and third stage were still ok as they allowed for some movement but with these latest restrictions, it is going to be a long six weeks,” she lamented.
“I have mixed feelings about this as there is no guarantee that numbers will reduce and what exactly is acceptable level? How low is safe enough for the economy to get back to normal? I do not envy people who have to make these hard decisions, but the way things are going it undermines my confidence in them to some extent,” claimed Simmi.
“Someone just sent me a clip of a wrinkled Daniel Andrews announcing the 129th lockdown where Victorians are urged to remain in bed. It’s funny but scary too as there does not seem to be any light at the end of this tunnel,” she ended.