‘Bin fire’: TV presenter condemns Australia, praises NZ’s Omicron response

The Project host Lisa Wilkinson has likened Australia’s Covid situation to a “bin fire” during Sunday’s episode of the programme.

Wilkinson made the remark during a segment comparing how Australia is handling the surge of Omicron to her neighbours across the Tasman.

It’s a rather stark comparison, with New Zealand announcing tougher restrictions from midnight in a bid to combat a growing spread of the virus while Australia has a much more laid-back approach which some have likened to “letting it rip”.

On Sunday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved the nation to a Covid alert level of “red”, with new restrictions meaning household close contacts may be forced to isolate for 24 days. Anyone with Covid must isolate for 14 days, and anyone living in the same home must isolate for 10 more days, That’s potentially 24 days in quarantine – some of the toughest iso rules on the planet.

Similar to Australia, lockdowns are off the table.

The Kiwi government has said, however, that if level red doesn’t stop the spread then it will likely change the rules and cease trying to prevent every case.

Ardern announced the cancellation of her own wedding, announcing: “My wedding will not be going ahead, but I just joined many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic.

“And to anyone who’s caught up in that scenario, I’m so sorry.”

“Such is life,” she added.

Wilkinson appeared blown away by the new measures Ardern had introduced, saying: “Wowee – 24 days [in isolation] If that doesn’t give you an indication that Jacinda Ardern has looked across the ‘ditch’ at our bin fire and gone, ‘Not doing that!’ Wow!”

New Zealand’s strategy is to “slow the spread” of Omicron.

In the red traffic light setting, masks are mandatory when on public transport, in retail and for children above grade four in schools. There are capacity limits on retail, and with a “vaccine pass” many businesses, including hospitality, gyms and weddings, can have up to 100 people.

“Our plan for managing Omicron in the early stage remains the same as Delta, where we will rapidly test, contact trace and isolate cases and contacts,” Ardern said.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield explained of the rules: “We’ve just gone back up to that in light of Omicron and to help with managing the spread in this early stage. We think we still have a good opportunity to potentially stamp it out or really reduce the Omicron transmission.

“Because it is Omicron we have taken an approach at this point in time where we are isolating contacts of close contacts initially until those close contacts return that negative day five test, then those second tier group of contacts can go about their normal day.”

It is a dramatic contrast to Australia, where there are tens of thousands of new cases a day, and in most states positive cases and only household contacts have to isolate for seven days.

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