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It’s scary to see what happened when one major city locked down for 3 months to stop COVID-19

Published Nov 7th, 2020 1:58PM EST
Coronavirus News Australia
Image: Fabian/Adobe

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  • The Australian city of Melbourne was on lockdown for more than three months and effectively eliminated the coronavirus.
  • The lockdown, however, also brought with it some tough economic challenges for citizens.

The decision to lock down a major city in order to combat the coronavirus isn’t always an easy one to make. While a broad lockdown can certainly prevent the coronavirus from spreading far and wide, such a decision can also bring with it a number of economic hurdles.

The U.S. experienced this dynamic first-hand earlier this year when cities across the country instituted sweeping lockdown measures that effectively saw all non-essential businesses close up shop. Correspondingly, millions of people instantly found themselves without work and, in turn, the unemployment rate in the country reached a historically high level.

States in the U.S. have since reopened, but with the number of coronavirus cases rising at a rapid rate across the entire country, many people are wondering if another lockdown is inevitable at this point.

Of course, implementing a lockdown is just step one in the decision-making process. Step two, naturally, centers on how long a lockdown should last. And while there’s no cut and dry answer to this question, what happened in Melbourne, Australia earlier this year sheds some light on what happens with a major city shuts down for a prolonged period of time.

Melbourne, if you recall, implemented a city-wide lockdown in early July that lasted for nearly four months. The lockdown there — which impacted more than 5 million people — ended just last week. Suffice it to say, what happened in Melbourne during that time frame is quite interesting.

Economically, the lockdown’s impact has been substantial.

Bloomberg reports:

The lockdown has slashed A$100 million ($71 million) a day from economic activity and through August and September resulted in a daily average of 1,200 jobs being lost across the state…

Business leaders say it may take years for Melbourne — ranked as the world’s second-most livable city last year — to recover. Melbourne chef Scott Pickett warned that ongoing capacity restrictions would continue to hit restaurants and cafes and that many would fold once government wage subsidies end early next year.

Again, the challenge lawmakers face is trying to figure out how to keep a given population safe while at the same time balancing economic considerations.

Also interesting is that the lockdown in Melbourne seems to have had an impact on the overall mental health of many citizens there. To this point, interest in health services rose substantially over the course of the three months. Even more alarming is that alcohol use and incidents of domestic abuse increased as well.

As to how the lockdown impacted the spread of the coronavirus, it proved to be effective. Still, it took longer than experts anticipated to see a meaningful drop in new infections.

That notwithstanding, the state of Victoria — where Melbourne is the capital — recorded two straight days of no new coronavirus cases last week. In short, the lockdown did ultimately work exceedingly well.

The Washington Post adds:

The nation of 26 million is close to eliminating community transmission of the coronavirus, having defeated a second wave just as infections surge again in Europe and the United States.

No new cases were reported on the island continent Thursday, and only seven since Saturday, besides travelers in hotel quarantine. Eighteen patients are hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. One is in an intensive care unit. Melbourne, the main hotbed of Australia’s outbreak that recently emerged from lockdown, has not reported a case since Oct. 30.

It would be nice if the U.S. could reach that level of success without a lockdown, but with coronavirus cases surging, that seems less likely with each passing day.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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