Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called an Australian territory’s coronavirus mitigation strategies “covid tyranny,” prompting its leader to compare death tolls with Texas and tell him, “I’m glad we are nothing like you.”
Cruz shared a clip last week of Australia’s Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announcing a wide-ranging vaccine mandate for workers.
“I love the Aussies. Their history of rugged independence is legendary; I’ve always said Australia is the Texas of the Pacific,” Cruz tweeted. “The Covid tyranny of their current government is disgraceful & sad. Individual liberty matters. I stand with the people of Australia.”
Gunner, a member of the center-left Australian Labor Party, responded Sunday with a few facts about how his constituents have fared, compared with people in Cruz’s state.
“Nearly 70,000 Texans have tragically died from COVID. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Did you know that?” Gunner asked.
“Vaccination is so important here because we have vulnerable communities and the oldest continuous living culture on the planet to protect. Did you know that?”
Aboriginal Australians make up roughly 30% of the Northern Territory’s population.
Gunner noted that the mitigation strategies employed in the Northern Territory have kept its residents “safe AND free.”
“We have been in lock down for just eight days in 18 months. Our businesses and schools are all open,” Gunner wrote.
“We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate. You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a life-saving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia,” he concluded. “I love Texas (go Longhorns) but when it comes to COVID, I’m glad we are nothing like you.”
— Michael Gunner (@fanniebay) October 18, 2021
Under a strategy of snap lockdowns and quick border closures to states with outbreaks, the Northern Territory has recorded just 226 COVID-19 cases throughout the entire pandemic.
The territory has fully vaccinated 68% of people over 16 and 80% of people in that age range have received a first dose.
The territory will require workers in health care, aged care, and other essential or high-risk roles for transmission to be vaccinated by set dates this year. Failure to comply with the mandate means they might not be permitted to return to work or could face a $5,000 fine.
Other Australian states led by both Labor and Australia’s other main political party, the center-right Liberal Party, have also implemented various coronavirus mitigation strategies and lockdowns that have been criticized by U.S. conservatives. In August, Australian social media users ridiculed Fox News host Laura Ingraham after she hit out at monthslong lockdowns in Sydney over what she considered to be low case numbers. (There were 345 new cases on the day of her complaint.)
Australians took issue with the criticism then and now, pointing to the numbers.
The country, which has a population of 25.7 million, has recorded 145,263 COVID-19 cases and 1,543 deaths. The U.S. has reported over 45 million cases and 726,000 deaths.
Texas, with a population of 29 million, has recorded over 69,000 deaths from COVID-19.
“Hey, thanks for your concern, Ted, but we’re ok. We’re just here getting vaccinated & looking out for our fellow Australians,” one Twitter user replied on Cruz’s post. “We’ve kept the numbers down so as not to overwhelm our health system - which, by the way, is free.”
Another Labor politician, Queensland state MP Mark Bailey, replied:
No you don’t & we don’t stand with you. Australians support their strong state leaders who have led the most effective response to COVID worldwide
Texas has botched its response with nearly 70,000 deaths vs Australia on 1448.
If you stood with us, you’d have learnt from us.
— Mark Bailey MP (@MarkBaileyMP) October 18, 2021
Polling has shown that the majority of Australians are happy with restrictions implemented to manage the pandemic and a large majority support vaccine mandates in a range of employment and leisure settings.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.