Lockdown Consequences in Victoria: What Happens When the World Stands Still
The results of lockdown can be massive to both the economy and the well-being of constituents.
Last February 12, 2021, Victoria entered a five-day “short, sharp circuit-breaker” lockdown as announced by Premier Daniel Andrews. It was a response to the public’s fear of the highly infectious coronavirus UK strain.
The state returned to a stage-4 lockdown restriction, which limited the activities outside the house to shopping for essential home supplies, exercise, care and caregiving, and necessary work.
Under the rules, wearing face masks were also implemented indoors and outdoors when you’re outside of your own home. Visitors were also not allowed while schools and tertiary education were closed. Places of worship and religious gatherings were not permitted.
People were expected to follow such rules, and violators were fined. However, exceptions on activities were as follows: funerals were limited to 10 people; work-from-home choices were also opened; and weddings for compassionate grounds were allowed.
Criticisms on Victoria’s First Lockdown Approach
Although Australia’s prior response to COVID-19 was praised throughout the globe, lockdowns in Victoria were criticised. So what has gone wrong in the government’s steps as seen in the eyes of the public?
In an online article published on The Conversation, Marc Stears wrote that, admittedly, creating hurried government programs in response to the pandemic is a challenge. But there are various key principles to follow in order to implement effective public policy-making.
However, in the case of Victoria, these principles were seen as lacking in the government’s response to the pandemic. There was no significant explanation on the policies that were implemented, or the roadmap provided lacks the discussion of the long-term effects of a lockdown.
As quoted from the article, Marc Smears wrote, “Others will have their explanations of precisely why the Victorian government’s decision-making has failed in this regard. It is rooted, perhaps, in the competitive politics that exists between the states, and between states and the Commonwealth government.”
The Price of VIC’s Second Lockdown
To minimise the devastating effects of COVID-19 in the state, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a second lockdown in the state. While this may successfully lower the infection rate, its consequence to the economy is a considerable loss.
As Victoria ran its course for economic recovery, the second blow was much harder to deal with. Reports from August 2020 estimated a loss between close to $10 billion in the state. On the other, as Melbourne plunged into stage 4 restrictions too, strict limitations on people’s movements affected business operations and economic stability.
The unemployment rate was predicted to peak at around 10%, which is higher than the previously forecasted 9.25%.
Victorian Government Releases More Financial Support
After the state declared a state of emergency, it needed more financial support for its programs during the pandemic.
The government announced a paid pandemic leave disaster payment. As cited in the policy, workers with no sick leave available to them are eligible to claim a $1,500 payment for the fortnight as they comply with the required isolation. Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said that this program will be patterned on the same set of criteria as that of a paid pandemic leave scheme put in place by the Victorian government.
For the business sector, the government set aside a business support package of over $534 million to alleviate the consequences of the second lockdown. The amount is an additional financial aid on top of the previously released $6 billion as economic relief.
Battling Mental Health Consequences After Lockdown
The state allocated an additional $60 million budget to reinforce its mental health system. Its mission is to boost the surge capacity of clinical and community mental health services in Victoria.
Moreover, the government also partnered with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to launch a mentoring program. Small business owners and sole traders were matched with experienced professionals to enhance their business strategies and cope with the situation.
Lastly, the government also implemented a well-being program in cooperation with St. John ambulance. First aid providers can implement accredited mental health support training to chambers of commerce.
Effects of Lockdown on People in Residential Aged Care Facilities
Aside from the pandemic’s repercussions on the economy and mental health of people living in their own homes, it also affects older adults living in aged care homes.
A research article by Shi Yin Chee published in Sage Journals and the World Health Organization concluded that some older adults developed a fear of death upon their awareness of COVID-19. These residents also had doubts about overcoming the pandemic, and the thought of regaining their freedom was lost.
Limiting the seniors’ interaction with their friends and families may have profound effects on the psychosocial well-being of residents. Aged care facilities in Melbourne and Victoria, like Delta Care, are constantly thinking of ways to mitigate these challenges while ensuring safety for its residence.
Policies are in place to prevent the rise of COVID-19. But in the case of extended lockdowns, they are not only detrimental to the economy but also people’s mental wellness.
That is why government leaders must become more proactive in handling such situations. Aside from the main mission of containing the infection, attending to the psychological and development well-being of every constituent can help reduce the possibilities of unintended damages.