The Covid Chronicles #11

Unbelievably, it is a year since our lives were changed by Covid-19.

This time, last year, Mr Books and I were on a driving tour of the South Australian wineries. Covid-19 was dominating the news but very few restrictions were in place. We were being admonished to wash our hands, use sanitiser and not touch our faces. We were ridiculing those who suddenly decided to stockpile toilet paper, but life was still going along pretty much as normal.

Our first few days away, though, saw things starting to change. Crowds at sporting fixtures were banned overnight just as all the winter sports were about to start their season. Mr Books, as the president of our local football club, was suddenly engaged in numerous conversations with his committee about what it meant for their local comp. As we arrived at various tourist sites, hand sanitiser suddenly appeared on counters and taped crosses on the floor told us where to queue.

As we drove through western NSW and northern South Australia we listened obsessively to ABC 24 news and the new Coronacast program, hosted by Dr Norman Swann. It was fascinating and frightening, but still somehow, didn’t seem relevant to us.

Within ten days, though, things had escalated to a point where several states declared they were about to close their borders. Mr Books and I had to suddenly change plans and do a two day dash across South Australia, through the top NW corner of Victoria, to reach NSW again before any quarantining measures took effect.

And now, here we are, a year later, planning another holiday. Or not planning.

We’d like to visit relatives in Melbourne, but we haven’t booked anything, just in case. We might get there, but we might not. We might just have a driving holiday around rural NSW or we may cross state borders. We will decide as we go, booking ahead a couple of nights at a time, just in case.

NSW, and Australia, as a whole, has been virtually community transmission free for most of this year. Every now and again, one of the states has a panic when a security guard or medical officer working in hotel quarantine suddenly tests positive. But each one so far, this year, has been caught quickly and managed effectively with targeted self-isolation processes (made possible by the incredible contact tracing now in use in most states) so that almost no community transmission has occurred. (Currently we have about 115 active cases in hotel quarantine across the country).

The vaccine is being rolled out to those in nursing homes, as well as quarantine and medical workers right now. There is a palpable sense of relaxation which includes a gradual return to a more social way of life. Phase 1b begins this week I believe (which is for people over 70, younger people with medical issues and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55 and emergency services personnel). Mr Books and I are in Phase 2a. We expect to hear news about our vaccinations closer to May, although that could change if any more of our stock is diverted to other countries more in need.

We watch in horror, in particular, as our neighbours in Papua New Guinea succumb to the virus and as many European cities bunker down for their third lockdown.

We know this means that most Australians will not be travelling overseas for some time yet. Certainly not this year, and maybe not even 2022. And if we do, we know we have to factor in a two week hotel quarantine period on our return. No-one wants to do that unless they really have to. Furthermore, the cost of flights, in or out of the country, are exorbitant right now and the application process for leaving Australia is quite a palaver, I’ve been told. It’s much, much easier to plan a local driving holiday instead.

Here I am rabbiting on about a driving tour of NSW and Victoria, when so many of you are still dreaming of such things.

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? Can you travel outside your state or country? I’d really like to know.

Take care; take heart.

22 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles #11

  1. I enjoy your Chronicles of our (Australian) times. Yesterday I got my first jab. A year and two days ago my son had made a zig zag series of flights to get home from Malawi before international flying ceased. I picked him up at Perth airport, left him in my flat in isolation and in a few more days was doing 14 days isolation myself outside Darwin.

    Meanwhile my brother and his partner were struggling to get out of Europe – Spain via England. This last week they drove unimpeded across the country, Sydney-Perth, to join me and my daughters for a big family gathering. We’re a lucky country – no irony intended (for once!).


    1. I have to agree Bill. We are now in Victoria at Inverloch on the way to Mornington. The crazy rainy, windy storm cell has followed us all the way south – my next chronicles may be called the climate chronicles instead! Crossing the border felt like a real achievement. Facebook reminded me that this time last year we had just crossed the lovely bridge at Tooleybuc to make it safe and sound back into NSW before lockdown.

      I’m so glad your family are able to gather again in WA for a wedding. You’ve endured so many iso periods, you deserve a chance to party. You may even be able to sing and dance!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s beautiful here Kim, although we’ve seen a LOT of rain this past week. You may find some pics on Insta to make you homesick 😍


  2. What I really miss is not just travel, but being able to plan for it.
    Every trip we’ve made has been immediately followed by decisions about where to next, and savings go towards it. In the year before we go, we plan in-country destinations and make bookings, and we research the galleries and museums we’ll visit and buy the entrance tickets when we can. So there’s always this wonderful feeling of anticipation.
    We all need something to look forward to, and that’s what I miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, this has been a very different holiday from our last driving holiday. So many more places (wineries, cheese and food places, galleries) closed during the week and only open on weekends. So many empty shops and cafes. It has been interesting talking to Victorians, coming as we do from NSW, the fear of another random state wide lockdown is palpable. The fear has adversely affected the lives of so many people, we are being inundated with personal stories every time we buy a takeaway coffee. All we can do is listen and nod sympathetically – so many people needing to vent and tell their story. The small Victorian towns are suffering big time.

      Looking forward to seeing family, though, this weekend, that we haven’t seen in over two years.


  3. There will be another lockdown, you can count on it once they start accepting overseas travellers again. And now they are campaigning to be allowed to quarantine at home, I can just imagine how that’s going to work out…


    1. I really hope the use of QR check-in codes and contract tracing will help stop another major lockdown from happening. Snap 3-day ones are not great, but at least it is localised in Brisbane for now and their contact tracing process seems to be on top of the situation.

      I think our fellow Australians should be allowed to come home, as long as they are properly quarantined if they do so. I cannot imagine any state will be able to change to home quarantining until the vaccination process is much further along. Their citizens would be up in arms if they did so! Too many are returning with a positive result atm for any other system to be even considered.


      1. My sympathy for our ‘fellow Australians’ is limited. I have no patience with those who left here after the pandemic started and are flitting in and out of the country for business reasons or holidays or for multiple visits to see family. (New Zealand has just put in place changes that prevent people from doing this so it’s not as uncommon as we might think when we see the sob stories on TV.)
        Many of us didn’t see our families *at all* for months and months and months during lockdown, and some people lost family to Covid and could not even attend funerals or see new born grandchildren in their own home town and that’s what we risk every time we let these travellers come home.
        As for home quarantining, that’s out of the question.


        1. Given how hard it us to leave the country atm, I’m surprised to hear that anyone is flitting in & out. Where would anyone even go for an overseas holiday right now?
          None of the business people I know (who used to be frequent flyers) have left the country for a year, because of how hard it is.
          I believed that those coming back were ones who’ve been trying to get back for a year but due to the limited numbers being let back in have had to wait. But maybe my news sources stress the hardship cases 🤷🏼‍♀️


          1. Well, I know personally of a case involving trips to London and back to see new born babies. And I know of another involving a ‘working’ holiday.
            I understand the motivation, and I understand the wish to come home, but these new more virulent strains put everyone at risk, and I don’t think it’s fair that people who work in these quarantine hotels and on the airlines are at risk, and so are the rest of us.


  4. It’s good to hear how you are doing. We are in the middle of lockdown 3 which is very hard now, but the vaccine rollout is happening very quickly (Mr 746 got his yesterday!) so that gives a little bit of hope. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel really lucky in a way, we had just made a conscious decision to stop having holidays overseas because we were concerned about our carbon footprint and had decided to rediscover the joys of camping, we had bought a teardrop trailer, so glamping really and then the pandemic hit. Admittedly the pandemic still forced us to stay home but so many friends and colleagues lost overseas holidays in the pandemic year and all we had to do was stay home a bit more. Since we couldn’t go camping last year for easter we just still set up camp in the back yard, which was just making the best of a bad situation.
    Look forward to the climate chronicles, it sounds like a great idea since these days we don’t seem to have weather, we have weather events!


    1. Certainly, roadtripping is a great way to have a getaway at the moment. We feel like we’re doing our little bit for some of the rural communities badly hit by lockdowns – buying coffees, eating out for dinners, buying local produce etc. Victoria has certainly been much more affected in rural areas than NSW. The number of closed or empty shops and venues is heart-breaking to see.


  6. This week I was invited for my vaccine jab… in London! Needless to say I’ve had to inform my NHS GP that I’m not in a position to get it.

    I’ve had a very “interesting” year… my Other Half, who is still based in London, came here for a three week holiday last March. He got trapped and is still here! We applied for a bridging visa, en route to a spousal visa, for him but there was a lot of paperwork we couldn’t sort because when the first lockdown hit we couldn’t get our documents signed by JOP, nor get police checks (in Oz & UK) done. It’s only now, 12 months later, that we are being asked to tidy up our paperwork, which has made the past few weeks exhausting & stressful. Despite being a couple for 21 years, we now have to prove that we are still together 🙄

    That aside, we are grateful that we have been able to spend the past year together. I’m not sure I could have coped living in WA alone, without being able to visit family in Victoria.

    Now we just need to figure out how we can both go back to London to sell our flat which has been lying empty this whole time…


    1. I’m so pleased for you that your partner was in Australia as everything went pear-shaped last year. Given the ways things have turned out, it may have been years before you could have been together again. I believe it is not easy for anyone to get in or out of the country right now, let alone someone who is not an Australian citizen.


  7. This is the third lockdown, here in France, a lockdown where you can go to work, take public transportations, go shopping, are admonished to go out and are authorized to stay an hour later outside. We were preparing for a “real” lockdown, you know, the one where everybody stays home except when you have to go out for grocery shopping, for example. There are more people dying, there are more dangerous variants and our government acts as if it’s normal and absolutely ok to let so many people die and do nothing. Oh, and the vaccines are not enough for all those who need them, let alone those who want them. The situation is crazy. I haven’t seen my sister since february last year. I wasn’t very hopeful for 2021, but I do miss restaurants and meeting with friends and working in normal conditions. Well, this will have to wait 🙂


    1. It’s a tough choice, either way.

      Travelling around some of the rural and coastal areas (away from the big cities) this past 10 days or so, we are seeing the effects of the harder lockdowns we have endured.

      We may now be able to go out freely, without wearing a mask, only having to check-in to places with a QR-code, but many small businesses have gone belly-up this past year. So many towns we’ve been to – cafes, restaurants and tourist destinations (like wineries, museums and galleries) are only open a few days a week or for a few hours in the middle of each day. And of course, we cannot leave the country. Our current freedom has come at a cost.


  8. We are in third lockdown, about to ease a little. We can’t travel and I think it’s mid-April before you can stay in self-contained accommodation. My husband and I got our first vaccinations yesterday, very lucky as we are 49 but we were invited by our GP mid-week, and it all came good. It feels so much better to have that started – and his parents got their second doses today, too.


    1. Glad to hear your vaccination process is getting ‘out there’ much faster than ours.

      We currently have a small outbreak again happening in Brisbane, which is keeping everyone alert. The big hope is that it will not shut everything down for Easter. It would be the final blow for many businesses, counting on local tourists next week to boost their coffers.

      Liked by 1 person

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