The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


25 May 2020

Setting it Straight: Opening just one of many cell doors for COVID-19

Setting it Straight - Issue #8

With the lockdown of Australian society being gradually lifted across the country, many of us may have the sense that we’re coming out of a period of house arrest. The cell door is open, and we are increasingly free to roam beyond the confines of our cell block. Depending on our financial circumstances, family situation and so forth, that experience of confinement may have been more or less comfortable.

As anyone who has visited the Port Arthur settlement in Tasmania is aware, cell blocks are part of our history. Decades back, as a Board Member of the World Bank-affiliated ILRAD (International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases), I was sitting in the premium lounge at the old Nairobi Airport when in walked about half of the cabinet of the Kenya Government. They all proudly wore the big, round badges of the ruling KANU People’s Party, which look much like those sported by members of the US Congress. As we sat and waited for our flight to Amsterdam, Prisoner: Cell Block H played on the TV screen above our heads. A proud moment for me to know that Australian culture is everywhere! Kenya is currently (18 May) reporting a total of around 1000 cases of COVID-19, with about a five per cent death rate. After 53 truck drivers tested positive at points of entry, Kenya closed the borders with Tanzania and Somalia. We are indeed fortunate to be an island nation.