Fact sheet

Fact Check: Tony Abbott says Victoria's coronavirus lockdown is the most severe tried in the world outside Wuhan. Is he correct?

Liberal Party of Australia COVID-19 Disease management Infectious diseases Quarantine Public health Australia

Former prime minister Tony Abbott labelled Victoria a "health dictatorship" and called for its COVID-19 restrictions to be eased, claiming the state responded to its second wave of coronavirus infections with "the most severe lockdown tried anywhere in the world outside of Wuhan".

However, many governments adopted individual policies similar to Victoria's such as curfews and stay-home orders, some with even stricter rules. For example, Spain and Argentina banned outdoor exercise entirely while Israel limited walks to within 100 metres of home.

Meanwhile, Chile allowed only twice-weekly shop visits, and both South Africa and India banned the sale of alcohol. And whereas New Zealand prohibited takeaway food and drinks, Victorians could at least still visit their local cafe to pick up a coffee.

Melbourne was not alone when it came to quarantining buildings, either, with the German city of Göttingen and a number of Indian cities sealing off entire apartment blocks.

At the time of Mr Abbott's claim, Victoria had not had the longest lockdown. Melburnians had spent 31 days so far under the state's toughest stage 4 restrictions. By contrast, residents of greater Buenos Aires had been stuck at home for 166 days straight. Santiago's lockdown lasted 94 days — and even longer for seniors.

Nine countries had kept strict, countrywide stay-home orders in place for at least 50 days running. That included Honduras, whose lockdown stretched for 159 days.

According to a comparative "stringency index" developed by academics at Oxford University, 14 countries achieved the maximum possible score for the overall severity of their lockdowns. While smaller jurisdictions such as Victoria are not included on the index, Fact Check has calculated that it would not have reached the maximum.

By Fact Check's reckoning, 37 countries scored the same as or higher than Victoria at various times during the pandemic. Of those, 21 had sustained those scores for longer than Victoria's stage 4 lockdown when Mr Abbott made his claim.

Verdict: Mr Abbott's claim is wrong.

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