Frozen in time: Melbourne battling its way out of COVID-19 lockdown.

Long-suffering Victorians are grinding their way out of a Stage-4 COVID lockdown, which though painful, has succeeded in getting control of the state’s recent outbreak.

The state recorded 179 new cases and nine deaths over the past 24 hours, the lowest numbers since July 13. Meanwhile in NSW, where the Sydney population retreated behind masks into a self-imposed partial lockdown as Victorian cases spiked and its own cases increased, 1 new case was recorded, although authorities are on high alert across multiple hotspots.

The experience of Victorians is mirrored to a lesser extent by an outbreak in NZ, which was thought to have eliminated the virus entirely but now has more than 100 active cases and has reverted to a stage 3 lockdown in order to limit the spread. The source of NZ’s outbreak remains a disturbing mystery.

The events of the past 6 weeks show that until an effective vaccine is delivered, the best way to control the COVID-19 virus is through widespread masking and hand hygiene, as well as the implementation of low touch environments and the maintenance of social distancing, and these practices must remain in play for the medium term. It goes without saying that yo-yo lockdowns are too destructive to countenance at every level.

While the ongoing Victorian quarantine inquiry heard stories of confusion and neglect from returned travellers and nurses yesterday, procedural shortcuts are not state-specific. Several NSW security companies are now being investigated after subcontracting hotel quarantine security work.

There are some light spots in the gloom – most workers around Australia have been able to continue working and the adjusted jobs figures suggest employment has only dropped about 5 per cent year-on-year. It’s also thought that if the virus can be strictly managed and additional lockdowns avoided, the national economy will recover much sooner than expected.

Victoria is set to remain under lockdown for another 3 weeks – reports from medical authorities suggest there are growing issues with anxiety and depression – security people should keep reaching out to their mates and colleagues – Microsoft Teams-connected drinks, nibbles, chats and laughs are highly recommended.