Marketed as life-saving public health measures, lockdowns triggered death and economic devastation on a global scale while doing little to slow the spread of Covid-19. Now, they’re back with a vengeance.
In October 2021, it seemed as though the lockdowns that still paralyzed societies from Australia to New Zealand and Singapore were coming to an end, as these countries threw in the “Zero-COVID” towel following a year and a half of rolling restrictions and closures.
But with COVID-19 cases rising in Europe, several countries are implementing lockdowns all over again, often with clearly punitive motivations.
This November, Austria’s government announced that police would enforce a lockdown exclusively against unvaccinated citizens. Following days of massive protests, the policy was extended to everyone, with steep fines and even prison sentences to be imposed on those who refuse to comply, and a compulsory vaccination requirement tacked on for good measure.
Next door in Germany, where a new lockdown was announced this December for unvaccinated people, barring them from almost all public places except for pharmacies and supermarkets, Berlin is also weighing a vaccination mandate for all. One German constitutional lawyer has even proposed that refusers of the jab “be brought before the vaccinator by the police.”
Though statewide lockdowns have eased in Australia, the country is constructing internment camps for those who test positive for Covid, along with their Covid-negative “close contacts.” Harley Hodgson, an Australian held for 14 days in one such camp despite repeatedly testing negative for Covid, said of her experience: “You feel like you’re in prison. You feel like you’ve done something wrong. It’s inhumane what they’re doing.”
Initially marketed to the public as a means to “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread,” lockdowns now represent one of the most draconian aspects of the perverse New Normal that has metastasized amid an atmosphere of seemingly endless emergency.