COVID Wrapped: Part II

Yesterday we looked at the COVID wrap-up for ACT, NSW, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. Here’s how the rest of the state governments fared:

South Australia – under Premier Steven Marshall

Premier Steven Marshall’s COVID handling has been a hit with his citizens. A survey released in early December revealed 88% of South Australians agreed their state government had managed COVID ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’. This is compared with a much lower 52% of all respondents who approved of the federal government’s pandemic response.

Comparing Premiers Marshall and Berejiklian/Perrottet with others around the country, a clear pattern emerges – Liberal premiers resist harsh and fast lockdowns, preferring to prioritise business interests. In South Australia, where outbreaks have not been as severe through most of 2021 as in NSW, this strategy has paid off. Market analysts rate SA’s handling of pandemic impact on employment the best in the country, following a drop in unemployment and underemployment of 6.5% since pre-pandemic times.

Travellers in Adelaide Airport wait for their flight. Due to a lower reliance on tourism, SA’s employment figures have not been badly affected by border closures.

We’ll see how well the strategy holds up as SA reports a record 774 cases on Christmas, with Premier Marshall continuing to insist on ‘no lockdowns’, with only some density restrictions reintroduced.

Tasmania – under Premier Peter Gutwein

Tasmania’s island status has allowed it to stay almost entirely COVID-free for much of the pandemic. Premier Peter Gutwein effectively shut Tasmania’s borders to non-residents very early on in the pandemic – in March of 2020. They have remained so until just recently, reopening on December 15th. The state’s closed-off status has bought it time to prepare for eventual outbreaks and watch other states’ strategies.

Prior to reopening, Gutwein ordered upgrades to sample screening laboratories, stockpiles of PPE, and the preparation of thousands of ‘COVID@home’ packs (which transmit oxygen, temperature and blood levels remotely) to ensure hospitals don’t get overcrowded. Gutwein’s preparedness will come in handy as the state joins others in reporting record daily cases – Tasmania saw 44 new cases on Boxing Day.

Victoria – under Premier Daniel Andrews

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has been one half of one of 2021’s major rivalries, butting heads with Premier Berejiklian. Many Victorians felt the federal government purposely distanced itself from the state’s devastating Melbourne outbreak, aligning with the ‘gold standard’ NSW instead. Requests for vaccines from Victoria, and then from NSW, were rejected by both sides.

2021 saw Melbourne become the world’s most locked-down city, totalling a whopping 260+ days of lockdown. However, when Victoria first went into lockdown in May (for the fourth time), the Morrison government said it didn’t want to incentivise lockdowns, and initially resisted providing income subsidies. But even in the face of appalling protests comparing his government to fascists, Andrews has maintained strong COVID management and stuck by his policies, unlike the flip-flopping of NSW premiers.

A sign in Melbourne reminds Victorians of a curfew – one of many strict measures put in place during the state’s extensive 2021 outbreak

Western Australia – under Premier Mark McGowan

WA’s Premier Mark McGowan has become notorious across the country for maintaining extremely strict border policies. McGowan’s ‘go hard, go early’ approach to COVID management has seen the state go into rapid, tough lockdowns as opposed to softer, extended ones.

While other state governments and ordinary Australians have grumbled at WA’s total disconnection from the rest of the country, an overwhelming 94% of Western Australians have reported a positive view of McGowan’s pandemic policies. Enjoying what is essentially a COVID-free life has drowned out most complaints about travel or density restrictions for Western Australians – the state has seen far fewer protests than others like Victoria or NSW.

As Australia heads into an even more ominous 2022, state leaders will do well to learn from each other’s triumphs and mistakes. Omicron defies vaccine efficacy and threatens healthcare capacities, and state governments have a big ask ahead of them to adapt accordingly.

Follow Maddie’s journalism journey on Twitter.

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