When parts of Melbourne, Victoria, were sent back into lockdown three weeks ago, state Premier Daniel Andrews identified the weakness that had allowed a new coronavirus outbreak as “families”.
“The experts tell us that, largely, the numbers are being driven by families – families having big get-togethers and not following the advice around distancing and hygiene,” he said.
Families, eh? Those little platoons that kept society on an even keel during lockdown, looking after themselves and their neighbours so well that the virus was almost eliminated by the end of May? Had a whole lot of them gone crazy when they were finally allowed to have some people around?
Maybe a few. But what about the quarantine hotels where security guards were letting people out to go shopping, not wearing proper PEP and some were even sleeping with guests? What about the Black Lives Matter protests where thousands thronged the streets at close quarters?
Why not finger “security guards”, or “protestors”? Why pick on families?
Because, it turns out, there are some sensitive demographics around the families in question. They are residents of public housing tower blocks, which were ordered into hard lockdown last week and one of which is still in that category. The housing commission outbreak has 159 cases so far.
At least some of these families also appear to be Muslim: glimpses of the residents in news bulletins suggests that, and today investigators said that there were strong connections between the Melbourne Towers outbreak and 113 cases at Al-Taqwa College, an Islamic school.
These are the two largest clusters in the state. It is not clear which cluster may have become infected first. (Interestingly, one of the largest clusters in New Zealand was a Catholic girls school in Auckland, and it is not yet clear how it started.)
One can understand Mr Andrews not wanting to turn the spotlight on an ethnic minority and risk stirring up anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic prejudice in a population disgruntled about having their freedom curtailed again. It is just a pity that their feelings had to be spared at the expense of the family.
The term “family” has suffered enough from the breakdown of the married mum and dad family into varieties ranging from a single mother and child to a transgender man who has given birth.
Governments have largely given up on the nuclear family – even though it is clearly the most secure and nurturing environment for children – and do nothing to encourage marriage, either fiscally or culturally.
Yet, when a devastating virus comes knocking at the door, they expect everyone to have a safe home to hunker down in for lockdowns – this time around in Victoria, for six weeks.
Next time Premier Andrews mentions “families” let’s hope it is to congratulate them for being the backbone of society, the wellspring of health and happiness in good times and in bad. And with 288 new infections today, bring the total number of cases in Victoria to 3397, now is certainly one of the bad times.