In its futile fight to remain a zero-COVID country, Australia basically suspended democracy, closed borders, locking its citizenry inside, and seemingly devolved to its roots as a prison colony. So Damien Cave, Sydney bureau chief for The New York Times, celebrated the country as a COVID success story with a 2,500-word justification for Australia’s authoritarianism: “How Australia Saved Thousands of Lives While Covid Killed a Million Americans.”
He began with the notion that the pandemic in the U.S. didn’t have to be so tragic if we had just behaved like Australia (click “expand”):
If the United States had the same Covid death rate as Australia, about 900,000 lives would have been saved. The Texas grandmother who made the perfect pumpkin pie might still be baking. The Red Sox-loving husband who ran marathons before Covid might still be cheering at Fenway Park.
For many Americans, imagining what might have been will be painful. But especially now, at the milestone of one million deaths in the United States, the nations that did a better job of keeping people alive show what Americans could have done differently and what might still need to change.
Many places provide insight. Japan. Kenya. Norway. But Australia offers perhaps the sharpest comparisons with the American experience. Both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is 38. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans.
Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of 25 million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.
In perhaps the most insane assertion, Cave dismissed the idea that Australia — a large isolated island with a population of 25 million — had a massive, built-in advantage with virus containment:
Australia’s location in the distant Pacific is often cited as the cause for its relative Covid success. That, however, does not fully explain the difference in outcomes between the two countries, since Australia has long been, like the United States, highly connected to the world through trade, tourism and immigration…
So what went right in Australia and wrong in the United States?
For one thing, they had border control that The Times would never support America, including keeping its own traveling citizens out for a year:
For the standard slide-show presentation, it looks obvious: Australia restricted travel and personal interaction until vaccinations were widely available, then maximized vaccine uptake, prioritizing people who were most vulnerable before gradually opening up the country again.
Australia’s secret? They are good little communitarians without the deadly American streak of individualism: “Interpersonal trust — a belief that others would do what was right not just for the individual but for the community — saved lives[.]”
He cheered socialism and “intense” (a euphemism) lockdowns:
When Australians are asked why they accepted the country’s many lockdowns, its once-closed international and state borders, its quarantine rules and then its vaccine mandates for certain professions or restaurants and large events, they tend to voice a version of the same response: It’s not just about me.
There were two paragraphs in which he allowed a disease expert to suggest that the “somewhat authoritarian approach….includ[ed] measures that were pretty useless, like the policing of outdoor masking.” Yet even that brief critique was quickly neutered by boasting that “the vast majority of Australians stuck with it anyway.”
All hail the average Australian, who obeys the government “without question”:
It was also all the Australians who lined up to get tested, who wore masks without question, who turned their phones into virus trackers with check-in apps, who set up food services for the old, infirm or poor in lockdowns, or who offered a place to stay to women who had been trapped in their homes with abusive husbands.
Is he admitting lockdowns led to an increase in domestic abuse? And yet he still strongly supported them.
It’s Cave’s second major story excusing the COVID police state. In August 2021 he skipped the shooting in Australia of 15 rescue dogs to stop rescuers from picking up the animals, and the pepper-spraying of an elderly lockdown protester, as well as the banning of news-gathering drones at protests, and bans on exercising outdoors or taking your dog out for a walk.