The ever-lagging vaccine rollout is ruining the reputation of Australia as a leader in the coronavirus fight, with world media outlets accusing us of complacency.
In the early months of the pandemic, Australia took advantage of its unique island geography by enforcing lockdowns and tough international border closures to keep the virus at bay.
For several months, we had a golden opportunity to capitalise on our head start by vaccinating as many people as possible.
About 7 per cent of our population is fully immunised, compared to more than 46 per cent in the United States and 48 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Now, at a time when we should be thundering toward mass vaccination and preparing to open up, Australia’s botched vaccine rollout means we are instead being plunged in and out of snap lockdowns.
The world is watching – and our once-enviable strategy is losing its appeal.
Here’s what observers are saying about us overseas.
World media remarks on coronavirus in Australia
“How long can Australia go on like this?” wrote CNN reporter Angela Dewan.
While acknowledging Australia’s initial success against COVID, Dewan said “that security has come with complacency”, and slammed the Australian government for failing to secure enough vaccine doses to prevent regular lockdowns.
There was a time when Australia was held up as an example of how to handle #COVID19.
— Simon Cullen (@Simon_Cullen) June 28, 2021
The BBC has also reported on Australia’s slow vaccine rollout, noting it was “one of the slowest in the developed world to immunise its population”.
In a separate piece for the British site, correspondent Phil Mercer wrote: “Many Australians would have been thinking certainly in the last few months that perhaps the worst was over.”
“Australia was in an enviable position compared to many other countries and when you look at the statistics they do back up the feeling that Australia has done relatively well,” he said.
He pointed to Australia’s small number of COVID cases (just over 30,000) since the pandemic began.
In a recent editorial about Australia’s COVID fight, The Washington Post wrote: “Hindering officials’ efforts to contain the virus’s spread: A sense of complacency that has crept into many communities after going months with effectively zero transmission of the virus.”
“A slow vaccination rate is exacerbating the struggle, with less than 5 per cent of Australians fully vaccinated against the coronavirus,” journalist Rachel Pannett wrote.
She quoted Chris Moy, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, who on Sunday claimed, “We’ve been the victims of our own success”.
“To some degree, there’s been a level of complacency and we’ve been living in a very gilded cage, a Truman Show… world, where we’ve really been very disconnected,” he said.
Eric Feigl-Ding, a world-renowned American epidemiologist, described low vaccination rates as “bad news” for Australia and described us as “supply bottlenecked”.
“Australia is far behind with two doses,” he posted on Twitter.
“Also, single-dose protection is very weak against Delta mutants. Two doses are needed. Therefore, Australia is significantly behind.”
In a piece for French newspaper Le Monde, reporters described the new lockdown measures in Sydney as “draconian”.
In the Indian English-language daily newspaper The Times of India, reporters highlighted the damage of repeated lockdowns to Australia’s economy.
They pointed to the 2021 Intergenerational Report that showed Australia faced an ageing population and budget deficits until 2060, partly due to emergency COVID measures that effectively banned migration.