The largest-yet surge of Covid cases in Australia hit the state of Victoria in early July.
Unlike in March, when infections came from overseas, these are almost entirely community infections. There are now over 100 outbreaks, including in hospitals and aged-care centres.
Two key sources of infection have been:
• The staff of quarantine hotels, where returning citizens are kept for 14 days on re-entering Australia. They are poorly paid and trained private security sub-contractors rather than regularly-employed public sector workers.
• An abattoir with poor working conditions and inadequate monitoring
Infections then spread rapidly from these sources through family celebrations that liberally interpreted eased restrictions.
The government responded with a return to lockdown, stricter than before, including:
• heavy restrictions on travel interstate and from Melbourne to regional areas;
• tighter limits on social visits
• five days of complete isolation in their flats for 3,000 residents of public housing towers, with no notice, and enforced by heavy police presence.
After extensive testing, one tower with 55 positive cases remains in isolation for a further 9 days. Despite their crowded conditions, infected residents have not been offered alternative quarantine accommodation
Schools are going back to remote learning for most students, except those in the last two years of secondary school. The government’s logic is that they want to help those students enter university or the workforce in the next two years, and that older students are more capable of covid-distancing. Many teachers are concerned about the risk, but the relevant union has not opposed the move.
After Australia’s initial impressive government-led suppression and near eradication of the virus, this recent surge highlights the failures of capitalist structures, in particular the role of precarious employment.