The Covid Chronicles #10

I started this post on the 27th January to commemorate/commiserate the one year anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case in Australia. But these posts always take me longer to write than I think they will.

The last Covid Chronicles was in mid December, just as the Northern Beaches cluster was starting. Over the Christmas/NY period the Northern Beaches were in lockdown for about three weeks. A smaller cluster popped up in Berala but by then the contact tracing system had most of the positive cases under their wings.

Greater Sydney folk were finally mandated to wear masks in all shops and on public transport, something many of us were doing by then anyway, but as the Northern Beaches outbreak worsened, the state government finally caught up to public sentiment. Socialising at home with no greater than 10 visitors allowed, once again became the rule, throwing many Christmas plans into disarray.

The start of the cluster was traced back to the 1st December and a female traveller flying in from the United States. But how it got to the Belrose Hotel in Avalon by the 10th Dec is still unknown. There was much speculation at the time about quarantine exempt people (i.e. embassy and airline staff) but all of them came back with negative results.

At the height of the outbreak the week before Christmas, 31 new cases were being recorded in one day. But by the New Year, things dropped off dramatically. An extraordinary number of people had been tested in the lead up to Christmas and the contact tracers were all over any new cases very quickly. By the middle of January we had once again reached zero new community cases.

Two weeks later (now three), we are still at zero new community cases, although anywhere from 5-10 new cases are coming into NSW from international flights every day. Hotel quarantine seems to be keeping things contained but as we all know, this is not a perfect system. Human error can occur and the virus has a way of getting through every now and again, no matter how vigilant we are. It’s just how things are right now.

Just after I wrote the above, a new quarantine hotel breach occurred. This time in Perth, WA.

It seems that a hotel quarantine worker has contracted the super-contagious variant of the virus from someone returning from the UK. When asked why it was necessary to lockdown an entire city for one case, three reasons were given, the first being the UK variant factor. The second was the high number of places the infected worker had visited in the 2-3 days between contacting the virus, feeling unwell and being tested and the third factor was the extremely long time between positive community cases in Perth.

This extended period of no Covid meant that Perthians had been going about their business in an almost pre-Covid-like manner, which is not surprising given how long they had been Covid-free (almost ten months). But it also meant that the contact tracing teams had been on the lowdown. The hope is that the five day lockdown will give the tracers enough time to get on top of the situation. (Since writing this last week, Perth has faced bigger problems with a bush fire destroying over 80 homes).

Once again, we are reminded how quickly things can go pear-shaped. Human error and an ever-mutating virus means that this is a long way from being over. A vaccine will certainly help to slow things down, but it’s a cure or preventative, that is needed to stop this virus for good.

After three weeks of no new cases in NSW, many of the rules have eased again. Masks are still mandatory for public transport and I still prefer to wear one in the supermarket, but elsewhere we can go mask-free. Which is such a relief on these warm, humid summer days.

Victorians are facing a few scares as they build up to the beginning of the Australian Open on the 8th February. All the players, coaches and managers wishing to attend, arrived several weeks ago to allow for the 2 week mandatory hotel quarantine period. A number arrived with Covid, a few complained on social media about the conditions, but most seemed to have accepted the terms of entry and are now delighted to be out in a community, all-but Covid-free. Something they cannot enjoy in their home countries right now.

Melburnians are understandable nervous about hosting this event after their extended winter lockdown. No-one would want to return to that again.

Murmurings are now afoot about the Federal Government playing a bigger role in the quarantining process for international returns, instead of leaving it all to the states to manage. After enjoying an extended period of time, where Covid was politics-free, everyone seems to have reverted back to type and every action is considered a political act rather than a health and safety one. It’s disappointing, but perhaps inevitable, to see that Covid politics has become a thing.

I’ll finish this post with a few stats pulled from the Australian Department of Health website.

Population of Australia: 25,570,885

  • Total Covid cases: 28 842
  • Total deaths: 909

Victoria state population: 6 689 000

  • Covid cases: 20 456
  • Deaths: 820

NSW state population: 8 158 000

  • Covid cases: 5 117
  • Deaths: 54

The population of Australia is between the state populations of Texas (28,995,881) and Florida (21,477,737). 

  • Texas has had 2 483 415 Covid cases and 39 136 deaths. 
  • Florida has had 1 763 873 cases and 27 460 deaths. 

Unfortunately, the country with almost the same population as Australia, is North Korea, and they have not shared their covid figures so no comparison can be made. 

The city of London has a similar population to NSW. 

  • They have had 664 836 covid case and 13 239 deaths.

It’s hard to know what to say after that.

We, in Australia, are very aware of our fortunate situation. We’re all living pretty quiet, stay-at-home kind of lives, but we can go to cafes and restaurants with appropriate social distancing measures in place and QR check-in codes. Many people are still working from home, but schools are back for the new year and domestic holidays are all the go. Although planning anything interstate is risky, with borders that can and will close with less than 24 hrs notice.

We’re all living with the knowledge that we’re just one sneeze away from the possibility of another hotel quarantine breach. But both the Northern Beaches cluster and the Perth scare have shown that any breach can be quickly brought under control with contact tracing and various localised lockdown measures.

I confess, that when I listen to our health professionals discuss the various outbreaks and what measures are required and why, I am so impressed by their calm statement of facts and science. Their ability to pinpoint which person had the genome sequence responsible for the latest outbreak and to then trace back all the contacts that person may have had during their infectious period, is incredible.

I have learnt to avoid the news outlets and politicians as much as possible, and I stick to health officials for my updates.

But how are you doing? And your family and friends? Where are you in the world and how is your town/city/state coping with the virus? Are you in lockdown? Have you been vaccinated yet? Are you back at work or school? I’d really like to know.

Take care; take heart.

22 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles #10

    1. Precarious is a good word for it Cathy, ’cause even though we have good stats and seem to be on top of it, we also know how quickly that can change. It is certainly the quietest, most stay-at-home summer I have ever had. I haven’t even been to the beach this summer, and I’ve only had one swim in my sister’s pool!

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  1. Those numbers are impressive. My area–not so much. My little, quiet corner of the state I live in did well for quite a while but now numbers are climbing rapidly. I know a few people who have gotten the vaccine, my sister is one, but they all work in the medical field. We won’t get it until fall. We are contemplating a necessary long-distance move and Covid is making it very difficult to figure out how to achieve that. We really need to go visit the new state and look at houses but that is scary.

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    1. The vaccine hasn’t rolled out in Australia yet. Mr Books tells me we are on the second last rung of the ladder of priority, so it will be a while before I even get the call!

      I cannot imagine the stress involved in making a big move during all of this. I had friends who recently moved to rural Victoria and that was hard enough even with our minor outbreaks. Good luck

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  2. I live in Fort Worth, TX. Face coverings/masks have been required since late last March. Any business we enter a mask must be worn. If it’s a restaurant, a mask is worn until seated at the table. Schools are open for students to attend, but some students are still learning via internet. They have a choice to appear in person or learn at home. Fort Worth is located in Tarrant County. Only 1% have been vaccinated. My neighbor who was told to get the vaccine drove to another town in east Tx to get the shot. Our county has had a total of 226,793 cases. 2,387 deaths. My husband and I were both sick with COVID last November. A coworker infected my husband and several others. I had a light case. My husband spent 28 days recovering.

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  3. I’m in the UK – so in a very different situation from you! We’re in lockdown – again! But there is light at the end of the tunnel (I hope so anyway) as the vaccine programme is underway and I had my first jab this morning.

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      1. Currently it’s the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but there are several more in progress and they will be available in the future, including the Moderna vaccine, which was approved by the MHRA in early January, expected to be available in the spring.I had the AstraZeneca vaccine and am feeling a bit headachy today, which I’m told is a common side effect.

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  4. I know well how important it is that your government provides good information about health dangers. Yesterday a childhood friend died of Covid after being hospitalized since December. A friend’s nephew died yesterday of Covid. And another friend’s niece is in very serious condition in the ICU because of Covid. All of these are in Texas.

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    1. That is so sad Deb. That really hits home knowing people that have lost loved ones during this time. But glad to hear that you are staying safe and well.

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  5. Australians are a lot smarter than Americans… all we know how to do is politicize everything, grrr… very impressive, how you all have taken care of things… i live in NW Oregon and there’s very little plague activity here: maybe one or two deaths and a few cases, but nearer Portland it’s been, as expected, a much bigger problem. So we don’t go anywhere, just a careful trip to the store once in a while… luckily we both read, do chores, and watch tv in the evenings (even tho there’s not much to watch anymore). we have 9 acres of trees and walk our own trails sometimes and i go over to the local city for bike rides a couple of times a week but i never talk to anyone… and so it goes, to cite Vonnegut…

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  6. I turn 70 just as the vaccine becomes available so with a bit of luck will get my jab in April. Meanwhile, with Victoria recording one case connected with the tennis I face another 28 days of isolation in WA as a ‘traveller’. But West Australians only need 5 days of lockdown for a similar case in their own state. Go figure!
    I was sure I’d be a free man at last when I got home from the current trip. I nearly cried when Victoria got 28 days covid-free and then the hard border clock was reset to 0 with just one case.

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    1. Oh Bill that really sucks!! Surely getting a covid test & isolating until the negative result should be enough for most of these cases now.

      Did you get some Wolf Hall time at least?

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      1. Ups & downs. WA Premier says Sunday hard border with Victoria would be reassessed later this week. Monday (today) Victoria announces another case.

        WA had 5 day lockdown during exactly those days before my current trip. So no library, no Wolf Hall.

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  7. What I much admire about some non-Western cultures is their general belief in and practice of not placing their aged family members in seniors care homes.

    As a result, family caregivers don’t have to worry over those loved-ones being left vulnerable by cost-cutting measures taken by some care-home business owners to maximize profits.

    As for care-home neglect, it was present here in Canada before Covid-19; however, we didn’t fully comprehend the degree until the pandemic really hit, as we horrifically discovered with the CHSLD Résidence Herron in Dorval, Quebec, 10 months ago or so.

    Western business mentality and, by extension, collective society, allowed the well-being of our oldest family members to be decided by corporate profit-margin measures. And our governments mostly dared not intervene, perhaps because they feared being labelled as anti-business in our avidly capitalist culture.

    But, as clearly evidenced by the many needless care-home resident Covid-19 deaths, big business does not always know or practice what’s best for its consumers, including the elderly and infirm with little or no voice.

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    1. Covid has been a stark reminder for many that aged-care in the West is a terrible, terrible model.

      Things had been so bad in Australia prior to Covid, that an aged-care royal commission took place – the findings are due soon – https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/
      No doubt, as with most royal commissions, nothing will actually change.

      Certainly, I do not want to end up in any of the facilities currently available.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your brief yet powerful reply. I will copy and save the info and link.

        It angers me so much that we, the West, not only seem to praise profit, but we worship it the bigger it gets — even when it deeply involves human life and suffering.

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      2. Re: “No doubt, as with most royal commissions, nothing will actually change.” …

        Our democracy’s elected leaders often appear to be symbolically in charge, second to the most power entrenched corporate interests and institutions.

        Those doubting the powerful persuasion of big business lobbyists need to consider how governing officials can feel crippled by implicit or explicit corporate threats to transfer or eliminate jobs and capital investment, thus economic stability, all of which is being made even worse by a blaring news-media naturally critical of the government.

        Canadian (and American) governance typically maintains thinly veiled yet strong ties to large corporations, as though elected heads are meant to represent big money interests over those of the working citizenry and poor.

        I believe it reflects why those powerful interests generally resist proportional representation electoral systems of governance, the latter which tends to dilute the corporate lobbyist influence on governments.

        The first-past-the-post electoral system seems to barely qualify as democratic (within the democracy spectrum), and it best serves corporate interests.

        Also concerning is that corporate representatives actually write bills for our governing representatives to vote for and have implemented, typically word for word, supposedly to save the elected officials their time.

        Not helping matters is that almost all of our information is still produced and/or shared with us by concentrated corporate-owned media.

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