A few days into our recent road trip through western NSW into South Australia and their wine districts, I decided to start a journal. I was taken with the urge to document the unfolding drama of Covid-19. The trouble began on the second day when I realised that this urge would wax and wane.
Some days I simply couldn’t take it any more. My brain was overwhelmed by information, numbers and a changing reality and I had nothing to say about it. On other days I was acutely conscious of this changing world. I wanted to record the evolving events for posterity and perhaps, my blog.
Mr Books and I are the type of people who listen to and watch the ABC news every day, we read science-based articles and seek out factual information. But as we scrolled through our facebook and twitter accounts, it became apparent that other people were not so assiduous. People were responding to and sharing rumours and hearsay, spreading fear instead of facts. It didn’t help that some of these people were leaders of influential countries.
At this point of our journey, we were on the beautiful island of Kangaroo Island.
This was the weekend our government announced the four square metres rule for restaurants, cafes and other public spaces. Suddenly, everywhere we went, only every second or third table was in use. International travel was also put on hold. Travellers had until 9pm Friday to arrive in Australia. After that, any returning Australian citizens would have to self-isolate for 14 days. Unfortunately this announcement had the effect of creating a mad scramble by Australian citizens and international backpackers to get here before the cut-off date. Many, if not most of these travellers were coming from countries far more badly affected than Australia by the coronavirus. No testing was applied to any of these travellers and they were sent out into the community, trusting they would do the right thing and self-isolate.
Guess what? A large number of them didn’t.
The backpackers gathered in Bondi for beach parties and even many Australians felt that somehow these measures didn’t apply to them either. They caught up with family and friends, went out shopping and popped into work.
Amazingly, despite these careless bungles, our community transmission of the virus is still incredibly low. It turns out the summer bush fires that devastated so much of NSW, VIC and SA and kept the tourists away, actually helped us to avoid the worse case scenario that is playing out in many other countries. Our economy was stuffed even before the coronavirus hit!
We still had one week left of our driving tour, but we realised it was no longer possible to do this. It was time to get back to NSW as quickly as possible, in case more states decided to close their borders.
In keeping with the spirit of our trip, we found the most direct route possible that took us through outback areas of all three states that we had never been to or even heard of before.
We crossed the SA/VIC border near Pinnaroo and the VIC/NSW border at Tooleybuc. It was two long days of driving, but we reached Mr Books’ home country late on the second day knowing that we could stop on his family’s rural property for a couple of days R&R.
At this point we considered riding out any future lockdown here, or at our holiday home in the mountains. But B19 was home alone and we didn’t want him by himself during whatever might happen in the coming months. So as much as we didn’t want to go back to the germ factory of Sydney, where all the news bulletins were showing us people struggling to get on board with social distancing, we felt we had to go.