Social media users in Australia have protested against anti-lockdown messaging by taking matters into their own hands – or rather, into their pets’ paws.
Over the past few weeks, the country has seen a steady rise in Covid cases, prompting the enforcement of shutdowns in some areas to help reduce the spread of the virus.
But the new restrictions have been met with fury by protestors, with 218 people arrested in Melbourne over the weekend as demonstrations turned violent.
Activists also used Twitter to voice their anger over the fresh curbs to their freedoms by using the hashtag #AustraliaHasFallen.
However, the hashtag was quickly co-opted by supporters of the restrictions, who jumped on the trend by posting pictures of cute animals.
One person tweeted: “#AustraliaHasFallen for mice sleeping in flowers.”
Another posted a picture of a baby koala bear, writing: “#AustraliaHasFallen hard for this beautiful baby.”
A third user joked: “My cat was shocked to see that #AustraliaHasFallen. She is totally fine though.”
And a fourth pointed out: “#AustraliaHasFallen victim to ‘hashtag hijackers’ who are posting pictures of cute animals on right wing hashtags to disrupt far-right pro-covid rally organisers.”
With cases of the Delta variant on the rise in Australia, the government is having to enact an “aggressive suppression” tactic to help reduce numbers.
However, speaking at a press briefing on Monday, the country’s prime minister Scott Morison insisted the public would have to start learning to live with the virus as soon as higher vaccination targets are reached.
He told his compatriots the nation would need to move forward and start reducing restrictions as more people got jabbed.
“(Lockdowns) cannot go on forever. This is not a sustainable way to live in this country,” he said during a televised media conference in Canberra.
“This groundhog day has to end, and it will end when we start getting to 70 per cent and 80 per cent (vaccination rates).”
Morrison spoke just as tighter restrictions took effect in Australia’s largest city, Sydney. As of Monday, masks are mandated outside the home, except when exercising, and a night time curfew is in place in the 12 worst-affected council areas.
The federal government last month unveiled a four-stage plan to relax restrictions once 70 per cent of its 25 million citizens and residents aged over 16 are vaccinated, with stringent lockdowns “unlikely” to be required.
When vaccination coverage reaches 80 per cent only “highly targeted lockdowns” would be necessary and inoculated Australians would be free to travel interstate.
Differences have emerged between states that want to maintain a focus on suppressing the virus and the largest state of New South Wales (NSW), which is seeking a path out of lockdowns through vaccinations following a large Delta outbreak.
Western Australia and Queensland states, which are largely coronavirus-free, have flagged they may still maintain some restrictions even when vaccination targets are reached.
They say the national plan, which was agreed before the NSW outbreak, was based on having only small outbreaks present in the community.
On Monday, NSW reported 818 cases, most of them in Sydney, slightly down from the record 830 a day earlier.