How Australia became a vaccine model

In City Gym in downtown Sydney city dwellers have been building their muscles since 1978. Sydney’s gay scene had once found a refuge in the fitness club. Then even Hollywood stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger trained here. On the ground floor, muscle-packed men and women lift weights on this day, on the upper floor they run puffing across the treadmills, next to them some of them are thrashing sandbags in a boxing studio. Only the strict hygiene rules are still reminiscent of the corona risk. At the entrance, an employee checks the vaccination status of the members, checks the check-in with the Corona app and measures the body temperature with an electronic hand thermometer.

It looks like it’s not just the bodybuilders who have some catching up to do. In the past two years, the treadmills have been idle for more than six months, the punching bags hanging motionless from the ceiling. The club had to close completely twice for at least three months, says Billy Kokkinis, who has been running the studio for more than four years. The 50-year-old Australian sits at a beer table in front of his fitness club. “It was a huge shock to have to close so suddenly. As if the ground was being pulled from under your feet. ”Shortly after reopening in mid-October, 15 people in the club also contracted the virus.

Billy Kokkinis, 55, runs City Gym in Sydney and has seen two lockdowns and one coronavirus outbreak in the gym.

Billy Kokkinis, 55, runs City Gym in Sydney and has seen two lockdowns and one coronavirus outbreak in the gym.

Photo: To Fähnders

But that is now pandemic history. While the number of infections is skyrocketing in Central Europe, Australia is making progress with opening up. Sydney celebrated its “Freedom Day” in mid-October. Not only the gyms, but also the bars and restaurants are open again – at least for those who are completely vaccinated. Life is blossoming again on the streets. The reason is the extremely high vaccination rates that several Australian states have now reached. In New South Wales, nearly 92 percent of residents over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated and nearly 95 percent have received at least one dose. In the neighboring state of Victoria, more than 88 percent are fully vaccinated, in the capital city of Canberra even 97 percent. Nationwide, almost 92 percent have been vaccinated at least once and 85.5 percent twice.

How long did zero covid make sense?

These are numbers that one would not have dared to dream of a few months ago. They were achieved even without compulsory vaccination and much faster than originally expected. “A sigh of relief” is now going through the country, says Alexandra Martiniuk, epidemiologist at the University of Sydney. With the closure of the internal and external borders, the strictest quarantine requirements and temporary curfews, the virus had pushed back down under several times. Thanks to the zero-covid strategy, fewer than 500 cases were reported daily during the first two waves in 2020, even at the peak. For those in favor of a zero Covid strategy in Germany, Australia became a prime example.


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