Nearly two months ago, I wrote
my last Covid Chronicles #7.
In Australia, our curve had flattened, lockdown conditions had been lifted and our only new cases of coronavirus came from international travellers. All these travellers went into a mandatory 2-week government-controlled quarantine in various hotels around Sydney and Melbourne, before being allowed back out into the world at large.
Covid was still out there, but it seemed like it was a long. long way away.
Around this time Mr Books alerted me to the fringe nutters who were talking about conspiracy theories. Somehow the coronavirus was fake news, man-made, a hoax and deliberately released into the world by a certain nation-state or individuals with ulterior motives, all at the same time. It brought together unlikely bed-fellows with anti-vaxxer’s suddenly in bed with right-wing, gun-toting, pro-lifers. A few groups were even trying to find a way to link the virus to anti-5-G issues.
Despite these (amusing) distractions my life has continued on, adjusting to our new normal, laying low and staying pretty quiet.
Mr Books and I had lunch in a pub with one couple in June, then dinner in a restaurant with another couple in July. We enjoyed a family birthday out one night as well. We’ve both had a couple of coffee dates with other friends, one at a time. But that’s about it.
I try to social distance as much as possible at work and when I go grocery shopping. Most people seem to be cognisant of this too, but a few people are crap. Some people are wasting a lot of time and energy on the blame-game and wishing that life would get back to normal, instead of accepting where we are and trying to get by as best as possible in our new and changing circumstances.
I’ve certainly had various ups and downs as I learn to adapt to our new normal. Change is never easy, but it is inevitable. I try to accept rather than rail against the impossible. I avoid large crowds or busy spaces and I haven’t been on public transport since March. But I try to not to obsess about it.
I go for long walks when I can and I’m reading more than ever. A part of me doesn’t mind the slower pace of life. I have my family, my work and our house in the mountains to clean every week, after the guests have left. On guest-free weekends, we even get to enjoy a weekend away in our holiday home ourselves.
That seemed to be the state of our new normal.
But then things changed.
About a month ago, (still to be determined) breaches occurred at two of the quarantine hotels in Melbourne. Private security companies had been given the job to guard the hotels. It turns out their training may have been less than adequate for the job at hand. The seriousness of the situation did not seem apparent to a number of them as they allowed family groups to move between rooms and failed to maintain appropriate social distancing standards. The story is that some of the guards were having sex with some of those in quarantine. It can be hard to separate the urban myth from the reality, so I only repeat this story here as an example of something that has become ‘common knowledge’ without anyone really knowing for sure.
Very quickly, Victoria, and the Melbourne area in particular, became a covid disaster zone. Within two weeks, Melburnians alone, were exceeding the numbers of positive cases experienced by the entire country back in April. Intensive care wards started filling up and the death rates have crept up again.
|The two coronavirus spikes in Australia (so far)|
Sadly, we have proven the old adage that the second wave, or the second spike, is usually worse than the first when it comes to epidemics. And most of our second spike has come from just one state at this point.
Wearing masks out of the home is now compulsory for Melburnians and all Victorians have been urged to stay at home. The adjoining states quickly closed their borders to Victorian travellers as, those living in the greater Melbourne area went back into stage 3 lockdown.
But not before a Victorian traveller managed to infect the staff and patrons of a club in south Sydney. One of the patrons then had dinner at a neighbouring Thai restaurant, and one of those diners went to the Hunter Valley and another went to five funerals in five separate venues in one week. And so it goes.
Suddenly NSW has three hotspots or clusters. A few churches and schools have been closed down this week for deep-cleans and record numbers of people are turning up to be tested again.
Mr Books had to take a trip to southern NSW a fortnight ago. Within days of returning, he came down with a nasty cold. On Sunday afternoon, we both lined up to get tested. Our negative results came back on Tuesday evening. That was two whole days where we had to stay at home and self-isolate. Two whole days where I could not go to work.
I’m lucky, my work is understanding and thanks to government schemes like JobKeeper, I still get enough pay for those days off. But this current outbreak of covid in Australia has once again highlighted the disparity in work conditions for many Australians. It would appear that around half of the Victorians being tested for covid were not self-isolating while they waited for their results to come back. They felt they could not afford to miss those two days of work and the pay that went with it.
There is also a sense that most Australians will not be happy about having to go back into lockdown and that compliance could be an issue going forward. The economic downturn is starting to bite as we look to a twenty year future of paying off the deficit incurred during covid. No-one seems to be denying the necessity of this debt (except for ultra-right-wing conspiracy theorists) as most people have benefited from the support and most people understand how much worse things could have been if none of the support packages had been on offer.
Everyone we know has had reduced hours at work or has lost a job. Almost every small business I know is struggling to keep it all going. JobKeeper and small business packages are the only thing keeping retail alive at the moment. We are all aware that a number of businesses will not survive. That means more job losses and less money flowing through the local economy.
NSW has had 82 locally acquired covid cases this week. After so many weeks with none, it is a rude shock to realise that our covid roller-coaster ride is about to go up again.
We have bought a couple of packs of medical disposable face masks and I’ve placed an order for some pretty silk ones. I suspect mandatory (or at least strongly recommended) face mask wearing in public is not very far away for those of us in Sydney.
Adapt and be prepared is my new motto!
Take care; take heart.