‘A searingly frank and detailed examination of the pandemic and our response to it.’
‘Le Grand deftly takes us through the complexity, humanity, fear and, at times, irrationality of COVID-zero, and the unintended consequences we must never forget.’
‘A forensic and at times controversial analysis of Melbourne’s journey with COVID-19, peppered with the scientific, political and personal stories of a very difficult moment in time.’
How does a city go from being the world’s most liveable to its most locked down? For 262 days, Melbourne was cocooned by stay-at-home orders. Businesses were forcibly closed, classrooms shuttered, and community and social life relegated to an impersonal online world. To stop the spread of a virus, people were prevented from saying goodbye to dying loved ones, children were separated from their parents, and playground equipment was taped off like a crime scene. Through successive COVID winters, the state of Victoria was isolated from the rest of the federation and Melbourne from the rest of the state.
Our remarkable success was to eliminate the virus—at least for a time—achieving something no other city had. We kept alive people who otherwise would have died and prevented serious illness in others. As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared when Melbourne emerged from its final, protracted quarantine: ‘We have saved lives, we have kept people safe.’ But this came at a severe cost, one unlikely to be fully understood for years to come.
From 25 January 2020, the day a man recently arrived from Wuhan walked into the emergency department of a Melbourne suburban hospital and Australia recorded its first case of COVID-19, journalist Chip Le Grand has reported on the pandemic from his home city, detailing the Victorian Government’s machinations in response to an unprecedented public health crisis. Lockdown is the story of Melbourne’s singular pandemic experience, an examination of the decisions taken in pursuit of COVID-zero, and the consequences of those decisions.
Chip Le Grand writes frequently on Covid and related issues in The Age.