coronavirus lock down lockdown quarantine covid
(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

“Dutch disease” is where a country’s success in one sector perversely leads to a decline in other areas.

The classic example is a resource-rich country that benefits from selling, say, oil or gas but where the corresponding appreciation in currency makes most other sectors less competitive.

It is the economic equivalent of a pyrrhic victory: a few insiders win and everyone else loses.

Largely due to what could be thought was good luck, Australia avoided a significant first wave of COVID-19: bushfires in December and January meant tourists — especially from China — slowed significantly, and hotter weather and higher humidity meant conditions were less hospitable for rapid spread of the virus.

Europe, by contrast, was hit hard in March — Italy, then France, Spain and the UK suffered what appeared to be huge waves of infections. This meant the expectations of people in Europe (who were seeing upwards of 5000 cases daily) were anchored at a far higher level to people in Australia (we briefly peaked at 500 cases a day, but most were imported).

So when many European countries got their daily infections down, they started to open their borders and economies (and since then, despite regular warnings, the much-feared second wave never eventuated).

By contrast, Victoria (and even New South Wales to an extent) became a pariah state when its caseload approached 500 (NSW residents were prevented from entering Queensland when it was reporting fewer than 20 cases a day).

Australian citizens and residents effectively can’t leave or enter the country and there are no indications when this will change. This puts Australia alongside North Korea and apartheid-era South Africa in imposing some of the world’s strictest movement restrictions.

While some criticise Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan for closing their borders, it’s the Morrison government, ostensibly liberal and free market, which appears to be leading the way — refusing to countenance any sort of international border openings and waving through almost certainly unconstitutional state-based border restrictions.

Meanwhile Victoria has become a quasi-police state, all in the name of saving lives from a virus that has so far killed fewer than 400 people in six months.

Police officers can enter a home without a warrant, seize property and arrest people for not wearing masks and housing commission residents are imprisoned in their tiny residences for a week like common criminals.

It seems like our early good fortune may not have been so lucky after all.