COVID-19 lockdowns increased as frustration rises . . .
The Australian state of New South Wales continues to experience a rise in new cases of COVID-19 despite being under lockdown for the past four weeks, recording a record high of 239 cases on Thursday. Driven by the highly infectious Delta variant, the continued outbreak has prompted authorities to extend the lockdown of Sydney until at least the end of August. They have also expanded police powers and are seeking assistance from the military to enforce restrictions. These stricter enforcement measures come after pandemic-weary citizens staged large anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane last weekend.
Vaccine rollout hindered by low supply, hesitancy . . .
Low vaccination rates continue to facilitate outbreaks across the country. Australia has fully vaccinated only 14 per cent of its population, with another 32 per cent having received one shot thus far, placing it last among OECD countries. There are multiple reasons for the slow vaccination rate, including supply issues and changes in regulatory advice. The low rates of COVID-19 transmission that Australia has enjoyed throughout much of the pandemic have diminished a sense of urgency among citizens to get vaccinated, a situation exacerbated by concerns about rare blood clots associated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Citizens are choosing instead to wait for the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to become available, which could be several months away.
Rising transmission spurs renewed interest in vaccination . . .
There are encouraging signs that attitudes towards vaccination are changing, primarily driven by the recent spate of outbreaks. The Melbourne Institute, an economic and social policy research centre, reported that rates of vaccine hesitancy have dropped from 33 per cent in May to 21.5 per cent this month. These findings also have implications for Canada. Despite having much higher vaccination coverage, with 57 per cent of Canadians fully vaccinated and 71 per cent having received a single dose, vaccination rates have begun to plateau across the country, partly driven by falling case counts and a sense that the pandemic has come to an end. However, as re-opening plans progress, public health officials are anxiously watching cases begin to rise again, increasingly due to the spread of the Delta variant. As the example of Australia has shown, this may be the impetus for more Canadians to get vaccinated.