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.