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13 Aug 2020

Lockdown Hits Construction in Melbourne

In Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, the streets are nearly empty. This  thriving city of five million people came to a screeching halt when covid-19 hit for a second wave of outbreaks.

Last March, a Level 4 Lockdown was imposed in New Zealand. This was effective at stopping the spread of the virus. All non-essential businesses were closed down including construction. The only construction projects allowed were those considered to be necessary to make a structure safe to inhabit.  But, we know from the last days events, how quickly things can change.

It appears that things in Australia unfolded much differently. At first, the city imposed some restrictions but it wasn’t enough to stop the spread of the virus.

Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, admitted that the lockdown rules there were much more loose than those in New Zealand. He commented that, “This is a uniquely Australian and Victorian approach. If you look at what New Zealand did, they went a fair bit further than this.”

Stronger Measures Needed

Though the lockdown restrictions in New Zealand were much tougher. The country was able to initially stop the spread of the virus. Australia is now realizing that they must impose stronger regulations in order to get things under control.

In Melbourne and other areas, there are now curfews and mandatory mask wearing. All non-essential businesses are closed and people are not allowed to freely move about. Though these actions seem harsh, officials warn that the virus will not be contained unless strong measures are taken.

When New Zealand first entered its lockdown, there were only 102 confirmed cases and no deaths. In Victoria, at the moment, there are over 7,000 active cases. This demonstrates how important the Stage 4 restrictions are.

What Does All This Mean for Construction?

At the moment, some Australian construction work may continue as long as they are following the Stage 4 Lockdown requirements. This means that only twenty-five percent of the current projects will be able to open. The rest will be shut down and no one seems to know how long it will take to subdue the covid-19 virus. In places with large population centers, the illness travels faster. In areas where the population is sparse, there are not so many cases. This makes it clear that having groups of people together in an area is dangerous.

With construction, it’s often unavoidable for the workers to be in close proximity to each other. It takes quite a few workers to pour a concrete slab or do framing and finishing. It simply can’t be done by one or two people.   

Workers Fleeing to New Zealand

As work across Tasman grinds to a halt, construction workers are fleeing to New Zealand where things have returned to normal. Some of them could be carrying the virus but it’s impossible to control the movements of every person. This is something that every country has struggled with. People often think they won’t get sick … that it happens to other people and this leads them to get careless.

For construction workers, it’s important that everyone know and understand the lockdown restrictions. Private construction projects are limited to twenty-five percent of their normal workforce. This regulation began on August 6th and will continue until authorities say otherwise. For smaller home renovations, there’s a limit of five workers on each project. We know that New Zealand is currently in a changing landscape.

Skilled construction workers are worried about the future. They have already realized that things may not return to normal anytime soon. Some areas, such as Melbourne, have become a hot spot for the spread of covid-19. Victoria has almost 12,000 confirmed cases and they average about 400 new cases each day. It’s in everyone’s best interests to adhere to the lockdown restrictions so that the spread of the virus can be contained. Only then, will everyone’s life be able to return to normal.

Construction Workers Struggle Financially

It does leave thousands without adequate paychecks each week and this is a stressful time for people in general. But these lockdowns are necessary to stop second and third waves of the virus from coming.

If it takes a state of emergency and strict lockdown measures to put an end to covid-19, then so be it. Officials in New Zealand have stated that they will continue to process the new training and apprenticeship programs for construction trades.

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