If it weren’t for a hotel quarantine security scandal in Victoria’s capital city Melbourne, Australia would not have had to endure a second wave of the Coronavirus.

The island continent had managed the virus surprisingly well until Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program was mismanaged leading to community transmission due to poor infection-control practices. The virus escaped into the community resulting in almost 800 deaths and thousands of businesses shut down due to a strict lockdown.

Until the second wave was unleashed in Victoria the whole of Australia had suffered relatively few deaths – around 100. To date, since the pandemic erupted Australia has seen 27,610 cases of which 25,137 have recovered. There have been 907 deaths.

All Australian States and Territories managed the spread of the virus by closing borders. Arbitrary rules have forced families apart. Four South Australian babies died because they were unable to travel to Victoria for life-saving heart surgery. Children were unable to reunite with parents, and whole families were prevented from saying goodbye to dying loved ones or attending funerals. Sportsmen and women received special exemptions to travel between States in order to keep competitions running. This proved unpopular.

Many journalists have been working from home during the pandemic with skeleton staff operating newsrooms across the country. The practice continues, however many have returned to their workplaces and are observing COVID-safe practices such as mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding public transport where possible.

The impact of COVID-19 on the media industry was immediate. However, before the virus raised its ugly head there were already substantial job losses, particularly in regional newspapers and newsrooms – mainly due to reduced print advertising profits and the increasing use and influence of online media. During the early stages of the virus, Australians were encouraged to stay at home, regional media began laying off staff, enforcing leave and reducing remuneration.

There is no specific government assistance for journalists, however, the Australian government has introduced two initiatives that provide financial support in order for employers to keep their staff while businesses have been forced to close (initially AUD 1,500 per fortnight) (JobKeeper), and financial support is provided for those who are sick or injured and can’t do their usual work or study for a short time (JobSeeker). The estimated cost of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs will be more than AUD 130 billion.

The pandemic has had a profound effect on the sporting landscape in Australia.
Initially all sport including professional and community and recreational was canceled due to nationwide lockdowns. In the space of a few months, hundreds of people working for professional clubs – assistant coaches, trainers, and administrators – lost their jobs, and an estimated billion dollars was wiped from the elite sporting world.

The AFL ordered all 18 clubs to stand down 80 per cent of their workforce and players endured a 50 per cent pay cut.

As the situation stabilized, “quarantine hubs” were established in the relatively Coronavirus-free state Queensland where teams from other states were based. Competition continued, initially in empty stadia. The AFL held most of its matches and the grand final in Queensland.

Other sports including Football and Rugby League held fixtures and finals in front of limited crowds. The Rugby League grand final was recently held in Sydney in front of a 50% capacity crowd of 40,000. Spectators were required to adhere to rules including the wearing of masks when not seated.

The COVID19 pandemic has forced Cricket Australia to overhaul the international summer schedule. The India tour has been confirmed with limited-overs matches before the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Aussies are very much looking forward to a summer of cricket.

Source: Roslyn Morris – AIPS Honorary Secretary-General