The Green wave that swept the 2020 A.C.T. Election


In a result almost none saw coming, the A.C.T. Greens have tripled their seat count in the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly following the Election on 17 October.

Going from two seats to six, stealing two seats each from A.C.T. Labor and the Canberra Liberals in the process.

From an Assembly comprised of 12 Labor, 11 Liberals and two Greens last term, after the count was finalised on Friday night, 23 October, the result is Labor: ten, Liberals: nine and Greens: six.

Many people had expected Labor to be returned to government this election, especially with the effect of the pandemic incumbency factor. What was not so predictable was the swings against both Labor and especially the Liberals in the process.

Whilst the Liberals on the final count had a Territory-wide swing of -2.9% against them to Labor’s Territory-wide swing against them of only -0.6%, it is the massive individual swings in Brindabella and Yerrabi of -7.1% and -9.8% respectively against Labor that cost the party the most.

The swings against the Liberals ranged from -3.4% against them to -7.2% against in the various seats and overall added up to a much larger loss of votes Canberra-wide. The saving grace for the Liberals is the result of nine seats in total — up from eight during most of the count progress.

The one party that is, of course, overjoyed with the vote is the A.C.T. Greens.

This election, the Greens picked up the second and fourth seats in order in the very Left-leaning city electorate of Kurrajong, along with the fourth seat in order in Murrumbidgee and Ginninderra, in addition to also taking the fifth seat (out of five) in Brindabella and Yerrabi as well.

Clearly any party which manages to increase its representation by 300% in a single election has done an excellent job, appealing to the voters not only as a party but as credible individual candidates as well.

Newly elected MLA Johnathan Davis, who was in a very tight race for Brindabella but emerged the victor at the final count, had this to say on behalf of the Greens:

“The A.C.T. Greens are so grateful for the support we’ve received from Conder to Kippax, from Forde to Fraser. Every single Canberran is now represented by the Greens. We commit to working hard and honouring the support offered to us. Together, we’ll work every single day to build a better normal.”

This is not the first time the Greens have reached this vote level in the A.C.T., however. In the 2008 Election, under the then smaller 17-seat Assembly, they reached a similar vote total and four members from the Greens were elected.

At the time, the party could not seem to retain that level of support, losing three-quarters of those seats at the 2012 Election, with only leader Shane Rattenbury re-elected that time. In 2016, when the Assembly expanded to 25 seats, the Greens managed to elect two members in total.

One million trees — a bold vision for Canberra

The challenge for the Greens this time around is to demonstrate to Canberra that they can play a productive and positive role in government with Labor and retain or even grow this new voter base before the 2024 Election, lest history ends up repeating itself.

Having served in a coalition government with Labor the past two terms, it is fairly likely they will do so again, this time with Labor being in minority government once more with only ten seats out of 13 needed for a majority.

Whether this would take the form of all six Greens members sitting in government for a coalition of 15 seats, or whether some of the Greens will sit on the crossbench and some in government is a question currently being fiercely negotiated by the two parties.

There is also the possibility the Greens could sit entirely on the crossbench, forcing Labor to govern as a minority government of ten against an Opposition with nine seats. This is considered the less likely outcome but should not be dismissed entirely as an option either.

The challenge for Labor now is to show that it is not just a lapdog of the Greens during this next term, while still working with them to implement both their party’s agenda for Canberra. It will be a tricky balancing act for both.

The Liberals campaign in this election was disjointed and narrowly focused on a cost of living message about rates charges and punctuated by gimmicky stunts along the way. It’s a message that clearly turned off some previous Liberal voters.

A.C.T. Government announces intent for permanent pill testing site

Labor ran a fairly boring, lower-profile campaign focused mainly on outstanding voter issues and combating the loss of any Left-leaning votes to the Greens, making some key policy announcements with the Greens just prior to the campaign commencement on issues like pill testing.

The Greens ran a solid issues-based campaign but seemed to fly under the radar to an extent, foregoing roadside signs entirely for the first time in an A.C.T. election. With a much smaller budget to work with than the two major parties, the Greens’ focus was heavily on social media.

While Labor did reasonably well in retaining government, it was instead the Greens’ message which most struck a chord with a particular key segment of voters across the entire Territory this time.

The Greens, as a result, are in an extraordinarily strong position now for the next four years, whether they join Labor in government or sit on the crossbench, or a combination of both.

They hold a significant amount of the cards in this equation. They could even choose to form government with the Liberals, were it not for the fact that Rattenbury ruled this out specifically during the campaign.

A question remaining is will the Liberals ditch Alistair Coe as leader and seek a more moderate path forward this term, or will they consign themselves to irrelevance by digging in even further despite the result due to sheer stubbornness of ideology?

This A.C.T. Assembly is going to be quite interesting to watch. Like cannabis legalisation and the planned pill testing facility, we will likely see some new bold legislative positions taken thanks to the Greens’ influence, as the A.C.T. continues to set an example for other jurisdictions in Australia.

The Australian Greens will certainly be examining in detail how the local party pulled it off to see how they might replicate this result in other parts of the country. For now, the A.C.T. is once more the greenest jurisdiction in Australia.

You can follow Chris Mordd Richards on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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Banking watchdog says no plans to bring back special treatment for deferred loans despite second wave


Article content continued

“Obviously, if we get into a situation where blanket decisions again are required then, of course, we’d have to consider making a further change or perhaps reversing our previous decision,” Rudin said Friday during a conference call with reporters. “But that’s not the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Yet Rudin’s comments come as Canada’s COVID-19 cases have been shooting up again, prompting some governments to reimpose restrictions on certain businesses, and as a number of borrowers are still deferring loan payments. Meanwhile, loan and premium payment deferrals granted after Sept. 30 are no longer subject to OSFI’s special capital treatment.

32% of the 778,000 people who deferred their mortgage payments have resumed repayment

Still, OSFI said in August that the decision to wind down the special treatment reflected that the measures were meant to be temporary, and that the financial institutions were still free to grant deferrals on a case-by-case basis if they so chose. According to the Canadian Bankers Association, more than 778,000 people had been allowed to defer or skip their mortgage payments as of the end of August, with approximately 32 per cent of those people having resumed repayment.

“There’s nothing that prevents banks from continuing to offer deferrals,” Rudin said. “We’re just phasing out the extraordinary capital treatment because it’s no longer necessary.”

Rudin’s comments on Friday also came after the regulator and the Bank of Canada had just finished hosting a virtual get-together for financial watchdogs, the International Conference for Banking Supervisors.



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A patchwork of red, yellow and green – A second wave of covid-19 sends much of Europe back into lockdown | Europe




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Coronavirus: Second COVID-19 wave faster than the first, warns top European scientist | World News


The coronavirus second wave is spreading more quickly than the first outbreak in spring, a top French scientist has warned, amid a growing resurgence of the virus across Europe.

“The virus is circulating more quickly… the resurgence of the pandemic started in August,” French government scientific adviser Arnaud Fontanet told BFM TV on Friday.

He said France had managed to bring the virus under control by the end of the June, and because the number of people being taken to hospital remained low until the end of August, authorities were given a false sense of security despite cases already going up at the time.

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Europe sees new COVID restrictions

“And then there was one cold week in September and all the indicators went the wrong way again all over Europe. The virus spreads better in the cold because we live more inside,” said the epidemiologist.

“Hospitals and medical staff will find themselves in a situation they’ve already known,” he said.

“We have a lot of tools to protect ourselves against the virus but we’re facing a difficult period,” he added, echoing Prime Minister Jean Castex, who warned of a “tough November” as the French government extended a curfew imposed last week on Paris and eight other cities to dozens more areas.

The 9pm to 6am curfew comes into force at midnight tonight and 46 million people – almost two-thirds of the country’s 67 million population – will be affected.

“A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is now under way in France and Europe. The situation is very serious,” Mr Castex said at a news conference.

On Thursday, the country reported a record 41,622 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Parisiens in masks near the Eiffel Tower
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Parisiens in face masks near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where a stricter curfew is in force

The national figure now stands at more than one million infections, and more than 34,200 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been tracking the outbreak.

Countries across Europe, like in the UK, are returning to restrictive measures following a surge in cases.

Belgium, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, further tightened restrictions on social contacts on Friday, banning fans from sports matches, limiting the number of people in cultural spaces and closing theme parks.

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European hospitals under COVID pressure

Although infection rates in Germany have been much lower than other COVID hotspots in Europe, cases have been accelerating and hit a record 11,247 on Thursday.

Across Europe, 20 countries set new daily case records on Wednesday, including the UK, which saw a rise of 26,688.

The Czech Republic, which is seeing Europe’s biggest surge in COVID-19 cases, has ordered most shops and services to close to curb the spread of the virus.

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The Netherlands has also returned to partial lockdown, closing bars and restaurants, but kept schools open.

And Spain became the first country in western Europe this week to record one million coronavirus cases – doubling its tally in just six weeks.



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Reasons behind Europe’s COVID-19 second wave inconsistencies


Europe is facing a second wave of COVID-19, yet the rate of cases is not uniform across the European countries.

As the European summer comes to an end, Europe is facing a COVID-19 second wave which has the potential to be worse than the first. The greatest resurgence is occurring in France and the UK with 275,514 and 211,099 new cases between 08/10 and 20/10 respectively.

In response, both nations re-implemented lockdowns in hot spot areas. In comparison, despite Italy being one of the first and most severely impacted European countries during the first wave (since February 2020), it is now considered a model for other countries (93,315 new cases between 08/10 and 20/10), along with Germany (67,081 new cases in the same period). Given that Europe faced the first wave together, why is the second wave resulting in such contrasting responses?

Do the new spikes of cases mean that all the restrictions, the policy and technology interventions adopted so far and the socioeconomic efforts and sacrifices have been in vain? Why do some countries appear to be performing better than others in terms of contagion trends and what might have changed over time in terms of policy approaches across countries?

Several explanations could answer these questions: the timing of the outbreak and response strategy; the new tracing strategy implemented; and higher compliance of the citizens with the rules. In this article, we show key metrics and their impact on policy intervention across some European countries with the purpose of shedding light on potential best practices.  

The first step towards an evidence-based approach is to identify the key policy objectives currently pursued by countries to face COVID-19. Considering only human-to-human transmission, the objectives can be summarised as: disease elimination, absence of ongoing community transmission, which is typically part of a global eradication goal; and disease control through mitigation or suppression strategies. The policy instruments used to pursue these objectives are similar but differ for their timing and strictness.  

Most European countries pursued a disease control objective by implementing a suppression strategy. However, the level of explicitness has been diverse. For example, Germany and France publicly announced clear objectives in March, while Italy did not explicitly have a set pandemic response plan. However, the implemented Italian policies shared common objectives to those in Germany, France and Spain.  

Next we look at government interventions over time and compare them with reported health and non-health outcomes at key dates in the intervention response.

These three key intervention points are:

  1. implementation of a full lockdown;
  2. release of (all) lockdown measures; and
  3. new containment interventions implemented with the new spike of cases during the summer.

For each intervention we look at the rolling average value of the metrics in the previous 14 days.

Note: data for Spanish is poor as the data collection method has been modified and there are inconsistencies over time in the number reported.
(Source: France, Germany, Italy, Spain.)

Overall, we observe two common trends. First, the tightening and lifting of restrictive measures is driven by the number of hospitalisations, the saturation of the ICU wards and, consequently, the number of fatalities, rather than the increase in the total cases and the transmission rate Rt. Second, there is a significant increase in the number of tests performed compared to the weeks before the release of the lockdowns, which may explain the drastic increase of the contagion curve.

These two trends could explain why France implemented lockdowns targeting specific areas and why Germany and Italy did not, despite all three countries facing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Indeed, even if there is a correlation between the number of hospital admissions and the total cases detected, we note that France enforced new restrictions in September, as soon as the number of hospitalisations and ICU admissions were at the level observed in the two weeks before the lockdown. If we look at a similar metric for Germany and Italy, we notice that the ICU saturation is below the date of the lifting of the lockdown.

This simple analysis shows that despite increased concern for the rise in the total cases, governments are behaving coherently with respect to the policy objectives they aimed to pursue. However, the continuous increase in the cases after the summer shed some doubt in terms of the timing of these interventions.

Lessons for Australia?

Australia shares the same suppression strategy used in Italy, Germany and France. Despite the new cases, the number of hospitalisations and new fatalities are much lower in Australia than in these countries (respectively 1.24, 0.68 and 0 per million inhabitants as of 20 October). Stricter measures are in place such as the prolonged closure of the internal and external borders and the complete lockdown in the metropolitan area of Melbourne.

In the absence of a vaccine or a global elimination strategy, the economic and social cost of stricter measures and isolation might not be cost-effective in the long run. The second wave in Europe could suggest to Australia that is possible to sustain a low number of cases and low hospitalisation with the easing of the most stringent measures. And that an even better strategy relies on the testing and tracing strategy, which is already very effective in Australia.  

Marcello Antonini is a PhD candidate in Health Economics at the University of Newcastle. Chiara Berardi is an Italian researcher at the University of Newcastle, who is particularly interested in health economic and policy topics. Naomi Moy is a Research Fellow in health economics at the University of Bologna, Italy. She is currently finalising her PhD in Economics at the Queensland University of Technology. Francesco Paolucci is Professor of Health Economics & Policy at the Faculty of Business & Law, University of Newcastle and the School of Economics & Management, University of Bologna.

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Victoria case average falls, NSW clusters grow, COVID-19 third wave hits US, Australia death toll at 905


“[We asked about] entertainment for a seated diner to try and improve the outdoor experience,” Mr Canny said. “[The] original advice was a definite no.”

Many publicans, including Dean Belle, owner of the The Delatite Hotel in Mansfield, had already cancelled their weekend gigs as a result of the advice.

But late on Thursday night, the regulator clarified the position stating live music was allowed for venues with seated diners, in what Mr Canny described as a “backflip”.

“Under stage three restrictions in regional Victoria, pubs are generally not permitted to operate unless they are operating for the purpose of either a bottleshop, providing food/drinks or providing accommodation,” a spokeswoman for the regulator told The Age.

“When a pub is operating for the purpose of providing food and drinks, music can be played, but the pub must be operating for the purpose of providing food and drinks to seated diners.

“For example, a pub cannot operate solely as a live music venue – it must operate for seated dining. All other requirements of the restrictions must be also complied with (for example, maintaining distances between tables, density requirements, records requirements etc).”



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French PM says 2nd virus wave is here, vastly extends curfew


France’s prime minister has announced a vast extension of the nightly curfew that is intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus

Hours after the prime minister announced the curfews, public health authorities reported that France had recorded more than 41,600 new virus cases, a daily high since the country began widespread testing. Figures showed France nearing 1 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 999,043 as of Thursday evening.

“In France, like everywhere in Europe, the second wave is here,” Castex said at a news conference, adding that “no one is spared.”

The virus is spreading less rapidly during the second wave but more extensively, the prime minister said. The number of cases of COVID-19 has doubled in France in the past 15 days.

“The situation is grave,” Castex said.

The number of cases reported daily recently has floated around 30,000. However, the count leaped to a new record Thursday, when health authorities reported 41,622 cases in the previous 24 hours. More than 34,200 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic, one of the highest death tolls in Europe.

The prime minister said the national hospital bed occupancy rate is now at more than 44% percent and that four regions, including Paris, have more than half of their intensive care unit beds filled by COVID-19 patients, including the Paris region.

Several other government ministers joined Castex at the news conference as he prepared much of the nation for a stay-at-home life after dark and the need to wear masks outdoors.

France has been using a targeted approach to curb the virus, but some of the regions to go under a curfew have yet to reach alert-level infection rates. Castex said those areas are being placed under curfew for preventive reasons.

In just one week, the infection rate per 100,000 people has climbed by 40%, he said.

“The weeks ahead will be tough…and the number of dead will increase,” he said.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran called the rate at which the virus is spreading “alarming” even if it is less rapid than earlier in the pandemic. The map of areas to go under curfew shows that infections are reaching beyond big cities and into less populated or even rural areas.

The southern coast, from the Pyrenees to Nice, is to go under curfew, along with a mass of areas in the southeast and central France, as well as patches in the north, in the east and around Paris.

ICU beds represent a major challenge, he said, and scheduled operations are being delayed to free up beds. France has increased its ICU beds from 5,100 to 5,800 but can go quickly to 7,700 beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

In another step to better track the virus, the minister in charge of data and electronic communications, Cedric O, formally announced plans for a new application that provides more information than a previous version, included the number of daily cases. When ready, it will replace the failed StopCovid app, which the prime minister recently admitted he had never downloaded.



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Covid-19 – The second wave in Britain | Britain


Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hub

ALTHOUGH BRITAIN’S covid-19 death numbers are nowhere near their spring peak, they are climbing dangerously. Daily tolls are similar to mid-March. Things are particularly bad in the north. Field hospitals in Harrogate, Manchester and Sunderland are on standby. Under a new regime of regional lockdowns which went into effect on October 14th (see map), gyms, bars and casinos in Liverpool will be closed, and non-essential travel in and out of the area discouraged. In much of northern England and part of the Midlands, members of different families will not be able to meet indoors, and the use of public transport will be discouraged; London is expected to be put under the same restrictions shortly.

Britain can probably withstand a second wave better than the first. It has the capacity to perform 13 times as many tests each day as in mid-April. Deaths and hospitalisations are rising more slowly than they were in the spring. Doctors now know to place patients on their stomachs, to delay ventilator use and what drugs to use. There is plenty of protective kit for health-care workers, and the nation has got used to wearing masks and working from home.

Yet resilience, the buzzword for governments in the face of the pandemic, covers not only supply chains but also the ability to forge a political consensus around a strategy. On this measure, Mr Johnson enters the crisis much weaker than in March, when ministers, scientists, the opposition parties and public opinion were in close agreement. Even the Conservative Party’s libertarian wing accepted the lockdown as a necessary evil. Mr Johnson’s approval ratings surged.

That consensus has now crumbled. The government’s policy of local lockdowns is being assailed from all sides.

In favour of greater caution are the government’s own scientists, the Labour Party and the public. At a meeting on September 21st the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended that the government implement a package of measures to bring the R number below one, including a “circuit breaker” short-term lockdown, closing bars, restaurants and cafes, halting face-to-face university teaching and advising all those who could do so to work from home. Mr Johnson plumped only for the last of those. On October 12th Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, said that in his “professional view” the new tiered restrictions would be insufficient to contain the spread of the virus in the worst-affected areas.

Throughout the crisis, Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, has backed the government’s strategy and attacked its delivery. On October 13th he changed tack, calling for a “circuit breaker”. Mr Johnson accuses Sir Keir of opportunism, but the prime minister is vulnerable: if Conservative opposition to lockdown legislation strengthens, he will need Sir Keir’s support to pass any new measures.

The public is with Sir Keir: 42% think the current regime too lax, 34% think it is about right and 14% think it too strict. More than two-thirds of voters support the idea of a “circuit-breaker” over half-term, according to YouGov, a pollster.

On the other side, growing numbers of Conservative MPs are angry that the government has imposed new measures without debate in Parliament. They want it to outline a plan for living with the virus in the long run. On October 13th, 42 of them voted against a number of restrictions, including a 10pm curfew on pubs. Chris Green, MP for Bolton West and Atherton, resigned as a government aide, saying the “attempted cure is worse than the disease”. These MPs are supported by trio of right-wing newspapers—the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sun—that have the government’s scientists in their cross-hairs.

There is also a growing divide between London and the regions. Mr Johnson’s administration is good at combative campaigns, but lazy on the basic work of consensus-building. The new measures are opposed by a new generation of directly-elected mayors, who argue they have been imposed without consultation, don’t reflect the reality of where and how the virus is spreading, and come with too little aid to support shuttered businesses. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, argues that the restrictions designed by people in London are misdirected and ineffective. “They can only see numbers and blobs on the map, whereas we see names, communities, the full picture of what happens on the ground.”

The mayors are also critical of the centralised test-and-trace system, run from Whitehall with the support of contractors. They argue local government public health teams would have done the job better for less money. The public is less likely to comply with a regime that their municipal leaders don’t support, says Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region.

Mr Johnson faces this rising opposition with diminished authority. His approval ratings rose after the initial lockdown to a net of 40%; they have since sunk to minus 22%. A reputation for incompetence dogs the government.

The prime minister’s election victory in December ought to have banished the memory of Theresa May’s hobbled premiership and rendered him dominant, but in Parliament on October 12th, wearily defending a small patch of ground against critics, estranged from both his expert advisers and his backbenchers, he bore more than a passing resemblance to his predecessor. Were he now still a newspaper columnist, he would doubtless be among those denouncing the flailing prime minister, the gloomster government scientists and loss of liberties, much as he put his name to all manner of eccentric fixes to the Brexit deadlock when it was opportune.

The first wave cost Mr Johnson a great deal of his political capital. If the government’s record does not improve, the second could exhaust it.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Back into the storm”

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Richmond Tigers’ Nick Vlastuin moved from choppy waters to the next wave


Most of the time the Tigers’ pair made the 30-minute drive from Carrara to Burleigh Heads. But a trip one day to South Stradbroke paid dividends when they bumped into professional surfer and Richmond fan Nikki van Dijk on the water, while she was competing in a tournament.

“You paddle up where the rip is against the rock wall. We were sitting there so she said ‘g’day’ and then went down and did her heat,” Vlastuin said.

“It was pretty big there.”

Vlastuin had met van Dijk at Bells Beach before but the chance meeting with her on Queensland waters, midway through the footy season, summed up how strange 2020 had become.

His own description of the season could characterise his football.

“It’s been fun [but] it’s been hard at the same time,” Vlastuin said.

The 26-year-old, who kept a low profile in his first 150 games, has paddled through a few monster sets this year, including the Mabior Chol groping incident, the staging furore and even a little online spat about whether he touched a shot at goal after the Tigers’ semi-final win over St Kilda.

Vlastuin in action during the preliminary final.Credit:Getty Images

And he’s come through the other side, into his third grand final in four years after a season in which many good judges thought he was unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection, juggling a stone as he bounces on his feet and talks from Richmond’s hub.

Vlastuin did not want to say much about the Chol controversy, having admitted when he apologised at the time to being embarrassed. He would prefer to move on and put it behind him.

His main concern was for Chol and although the reaction of those outside the club unnerved him slightly the process-driven grandson of a Dutch prisoner-of-war worked his way through the issue.

“People are always going to have their opinions. You can’t call everyone out, you can’t keep everyone happy. At the same time, it’s just [important to] value the people around you I suppose,” Vlastuin said.

“I had more cameras on me after that than ever before. Things that weren’t even a big deal, all of a sudden they were blown up.”

He called people out on Twitter after the goal review question a few weeks ago but for the most part he has avoided social media and he’s been more likely to watch The Bachelor than the news while in the Sunshine State.

Being out on the water helped Vlastuin, who likes to spend time on the surf coast at places such as Craypots and Back Addis and Winki – if it’s not too crowded – gain perspective on whatever was bubbling away.

“Even just being off your phone for that long … you’re so connected these days and you can’t bring your phone out in the water,” Vlastuin said.

Vlastuin (left) waits for a goal review during the semi-final win over St Kilda.

Vlastuin (left) waits for a goal review during the semi-final win over St Kilda.Credit:Getty Images

“I really, really enjoy footy when I am here but I also enjoy being able to do other stuff.”

That other stuff includes building a house in Torquay where his girlfriend Georgia, who grew up on the surf coast, has remained while he has been away. That his grand final opponent is Geelong has him slightly worried about that project now.

“I have a couple of tradies working on my house who are all Cats fans so I’m trying to get them to finish before the weekend,” Vlastuin joked.

The weekend looms now and Vlastuin is ready after the club’s heroic win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

At times he’s felt uncomfortable rather than the unflappable Tiger who his mum has called “Tigger” since he turned four.

But no longer. Now he is ready, the distractions behind him, the lessons learned, and the challenge obvious: beat Geelong to become premiers.

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Europe’s New Covid Wave – WSJ


Commuters wear face masks on a platform of the main train station Hauptbahnhof, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in Berlin, Oct. 16.



Photo:

fabrizio bensch/Reuters

One of the biggest falsehoods of 2020 is the notion that everyone other than the United States has a handle on Covid-19. This distortion undergirds Democratic and media criticism of President Trump and some governors for not locking down as aggressively as the Spanish or tracing contacts as assiduously as the Germans.

If only this were true. Instead, most places that have been held forth as coulda-woulda-shoulda models for Washington are now in the grip of their second virus wave. Nor are their pandemic politics any less messy.

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Take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has been hailed as a leadership model. Germany quickly implemented a test-and-trace program to isolate cases and adopted a relatively mild spring lockdown that seemed to control the spread. Mrs. Merkel won plaudits for her bracing, science-driven media appearances, with credibility bolstered by her earlier career as a chemist.

No longer. Cases started rising again in August and as of this week the number of daily new cases exceeds the spring’s high. The number of deaths is still well short of the spring level, but German pandemic policy has descended into chaos anyway. Some cities have reimposed restrictions, or have added limits on nightlife not seen since the Allied occupation of the 1940s. Berlin faces new political disputes as some states try to ban hotel bookings made by residents of virus hot spots.

Spain and Italy bore the brunt of the spring’s first wave, and their draconian lockdowns were supposed to be a model for bringing a major outbreak under control. It hasn’t stuck. Spain is the epicenter of Europe’s second wave, with cases several times higher than in March and April and deaths rising too. The government has tried to reimpose a lockdown in some areas, but this time with fierce resistance from politicians and businesses wary of doing as much damage to the economy.

France also imposed a strict lockdown in the spring and is also suffering a large second wave. Authorities have imposed new curfews in some cities, including Paris. And police reportedly have raided the homes of some current and former officials as part of an investigation into the government’s earlier pandemic response.

In the United Kingdom, Covid-19 threatens to wreck Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government. Cases and hospitalizations are surging again, despite the alleged success of the spring lockdown. But local officials in the hardest-hit areas object to being singled out for regional lockdowns and demand national restrictions instead. The feud is dividing Mr. Johnson’s Tories while policy vacillations dent his credibility.

These European governments have at least learned lessons from earlier mistakes. The main one is that general lockdowns are no solution. Despite headlines about a return to lockdown in Europe, governments now use that term to mean restrictions that are much milder than the spring’s stay-home orders. Joe Biden might be the only politician in the West who hasn’t figured this out.

Our point isn’t that U.S. policies have been any better. Leaders in most of the world put too much faith in lockdowns, and in experts who derided alternatives such as Sweden’s experiment with a more calibrated response that kept most of the economy and schools open.

But if Mr. Biden wins next month, it will be in no small part because he managed to persuade voters that there was some “better” way to handle the pandemic. He can’t say what that way is. Except for mandating masks and more sympathy for lockdowns, his proposals are the same as the Trump Administration’s. Europe’s struggles are proving that, short of a perfect vaccine, there is no magic solution to Covid.

Potomac Watch: Democratic National Convention speakers are claiming Joe Biden already has a proven track record of handling pandemics. But the reality of the Obama-Biden response to H1N1 in 2009 differs from their own version of events. Image: Corbis via Getty Images

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