The Covid Chronicles #13

It has been a long winter of Covid lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne. The regional areas of both NSW and Victoria have moved in and out of lockdown as their numbers fluctuated, but Sydney and Melbourne, and now Canberra, have borne the brunt of the Delta variant.

Writing a Covid Chronicle update has been the furthest thing from my mind. When you’re living it, with no end in sight, it seems too hard to contemplate an overview. Getting through day by day is the best you can do. Taking a bigger picture view or diving into some kind of analysis feels impossible. It’s all too close, too soon and too real.

But an end of sorts is in sight.

Some forward thinking thoughts are popping into my head again, and I’m looking back as well, contemplating the historical context, the lessons learnt. I finally feel that, maybe, I have something to say after all. Let’s see what happens!

I’ll start with a quick timeline.

On Saturday, June 26, Sydney started a two week ‘soft’ lockdown phase (see Covid Chronicles #12 for more about this phase). Early in July, as the case numbers continued to grow, the lockdown restrictions ramped up in certain suburbs and the lockdown for Greater Sydney was extended until the 20th July. (Melbourne also began another lockdown on 15th of July).

At this point, we could still visit our home in the mountains, which is deemed to be part of Greater Sydney (although we made sure we filled the car with petrol here and we took all our food with us, so that we did not have to go anywhere or see anyone whilst there). At work, I became the click and collect queen! However the downturn in trade meant we only had half the staff at work on any one day.

Vaccination rates remained low, as mixed messaging occurred around the Astra-Zeneca dose and Australia suffered from not having enough Pfizer on order. Poor choices made by our federal leaders combined with sensationalist reporting across the board, created no sense of urgency to get vaxxed. It was too easy to be vaccine hesitant.

On the 28 July, the lockdown was extended and tightened until the end of August. We could no longer visit our home in the mountains, or go more than 5km from home. Masks had to be worn everywhere, inside and out. Vaccination rates gradually improved as emergency deliveries of Pfizer arrived in the country and pop up clinics in hot spot areas were prioritised.

On the 20th August, the lockdown was extended again, until the end of September. (At this point the ACT also went into lockdown on the 12th August). Dangled in front of us, like candy, was the promise that fully vaccinated people would be able to enjoy some freedoms in mid October, provided we got to the magic number of 70% fully vaccinated.

As soon as 70% is reached, certain restrictions will be eased – gradually. We have, apparently, learnt from the mistakes made in the Northern Hemisphere as they moved into their summer months six months ago.

At 80% even more restrictions will be lifted. These details have still to be clearly articulated. As a result, I am feeling very nervous about how a small retail shop is going to police whether people are vaccinated or not. Will we have to employ someone to man the front door checking details of every single person who wants to enter?

On the bright side, I’m tentatively booked to get my hair cut and coloured the first week we all reopen!

On the weekend, I was sick & tired of my long, straggly hair and cut it off into a bob!

It’s amazing how heavy a couple of inches of hair can be – I feel much lighter and freer for going the chop. But the silver lining is growing out stronger every day and thanks to the trim, I can see it even more now.

As things reopen, we have been warned to expect a significant increase in case numbers and a spike in hospital admissions. Government and health officials assure us they have been planning for this phase and are ready to handle the jump in cases. They tell us that the numbers will drop off again as we move into November.

I have worked throughout this entire lockdown, so I’ve barely managed to see a spike in my reading and blogging stats. Most nights I’m too tired after work to do more than eat dinner, watch the news, then fall asleep on the lounge. But we have been walking. As with last lockdown, I have convinced Mr Books to walk with me 3-4 times a week. Our walks have covered every single inch of our LGA (Local Government Area – another word that is now in common usage thanks to Covid) multiple times over, in all weather.

One of the book genres I have been getting into during this Covid life is Plague Lit books. These books have covered most of the major plagues and pandemics – past and present – real and fictional. Why do I do this to myself, I hear you ask?

Firstly, I have always been drawn to apocalyptic stories, and as a history buff, historical plagues and pandemics interest me along with all the other major events in history. I’m looking for facts and figures, I’m fascinated by the human drama and I’m constantly looking for the lessons that could be learnt.

There are several things I have learnt from my Plague Lit books.

Whenever we humans are confronted with something beyond our control, the same things happen every single time. We are predictable in the way we respond to chaos. We do not like being reminded that we are just one part of a great big organic whole populated, and sometimes dominated by, other animals, including viruses and bacterium. Every single plague or pandemic throughout history has had certain factors in common. These include,

  1. Nay-sayers and deniers
  2. Conspiracy theorists
  3. Misinformation
  4. Panic buying/hoarding
  5. Anti-groups and protests
  6. Quack remedies
  7. Neighbours turning against neighbours
  8. Complacency
  9. Pandemic/plague fatigue

On one level, the fact that we have once again gone down exactly the same path as previous pandemics and plagues is somewhat disheartening. It seems we are doomed to repeat history ad infinitum. But maybe the lesson to be learnt is not how to do things differently. Maybe the role of history is to give us comfort – this is how humans act and react – and a template to help us be prepared for next time. For one thing history has taught us, is that there will always be a next time.

Yet I am reminded, by all the people walking past my front window as I type, with their masks in place, that the vast majority of people do actually follow lockdown measures, accept the science, get vaccinated and sincerely want to help themselves and their neighbours to stay healthy. Some of these people may have doubts or reservations, but ultimately, they want to move on from this state of lockdown and fear, and will do what is necessary to get us there. I take heart from the fact that over 80% of New South Welshman have had their first dose and 60% have now had their second dose.

This phase of Covid lockdown life is drawing to a close. A new way forward, where we all learn to live with Covid is coming, ready or not! A couple of doctors and nurses I have spoken to, suggest that this next phase could last for years. That is what they are preparing for, at least.

On a more personal level, as an introvert, staying home quietly has not been much of a chore for me. The challenging part will be to reactivate my hard won, easily abandoned extrovert skills that help me get through this crazy, busy, gregarious world we usually live in.

For the Canberran Covid perspective, see Sue @Whispering Gums’ Living Under Covid-19 posts. I’d also love to hear your perspective. How are you, and your state/country learning to live with Covid? What mistakes were made? What worked well? What should we know before we open up again?

Take care; take heart.

  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin.

40 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles #13

  1. You have my perspective, of someone driving around (mostly) avoiding lockdowns, but I’m one of the lucky ones, like a film star, able to choose my location. What has got me, throughout this crisis, is the complete lack of action by the Federal Government – I hope the states retain their newfound strength – and particularly the constant announcements that were never acted on. Particularly the “primacy” of the 1A vaccination group which never actually got them to the front of vaccination queues and has resulted in needless illnesses to frontline medical staff, carers of old and disabled people and Indigenous remote communities.

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    1. My concern is the low uptake/availability to those in the 1A category will have a terrible consequence as NSW, Vic & ACT move to open up. They declared the 1A group as important but then did so little to actually make it happen! Unless they were motivated like my parents & had kids like us urging them to make the appointment, they didn’t. The issues around people with disabilities in particular has been abysmal.

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      1. Our Chief Minister has been very strong about equity of vaccination, though I’m not sure he specifically mentioned it in his roadmap yesterday. However, I think it is something they are working on. He is hoping we’ll be 90% plus when the rest are 80%. Our team is also tracking their 12+ vaccination rate (versus 16+)

        And I think Dan Andrews will be cautious until all those who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated. That’s been his mantra all the way through. I’ve been wondering if this is what’s behind his not providing a day for opening up to the unvaccinated, the way Gladys has done? If 80% means not all who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated then he’s not going to put them at risk. That’s what I understand, anyhow.

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        1. It’s interesting to see how Dan & Gladys seem to have come closer together as the Delta lockdown has gone on. He is clearly flagging that he is watching what happens in NSW as we open up & will modify his message depending on how good or bad things turn out.

          Mr Books often calls Gladys the Premier of Sydney because of her lack of understanding about anything beyond the boundaries of the city! So we do worry that large sections of rural NSW may not be at 70% when we open up. There isn’t one single rural hospital that could cope with a major outbreak.

          But she has to try something. I’m already seeing a slacking off of staying within the 5km zone, in particular, but also mask wearing and social distancing. She’s trying to stay ahead of the crowd.

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          1. Yes, it’s tough for the premiers, particularly for Dan who’s been through so much. He’s realised that Delta can’t be stopped – as I think our Andrew has too. Dan and Gladys have come closer together though I think equity is probably still a bigger driver for him. You can hear it in his messaging particularly, I think, re not opening up to the unvaccinated before all those who wan’t to be vaccinated have been. That’s his mantra still I believe, and I approve. It’s just not fair otherwise, but what will humans accept? I think Mr Books has a bit of a point.

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  2. Great post Brona, and thanks for the link.

    I would have read plague lit books if I weren’t growing under review books. One of my favourites is Camus’ The plague which I see you’ve reviewed, but I missed (it was in that terrible part of last year when I was barely keeping on going.) I’ve read it a few times, including since blogging. It’s one of my all-time favourite novels.

    I love you suggestion that “But maybe the lesson to be learnt is not how to do things differently. Maybe the role of history is to give us comfort – this is how humans act and react – and a template to help us be prepared for next time.” This makes great sense to me because, really, we don’t change much but, as you say, knowing history can help us understand what is happening and why (human nature mostly!) and be prepared.

    Roll on the next phase eh?

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    1. You had a lot going on last year Sue, if my memory serves me correct, but I’d love to read your thoughts on The Plague at some point.

      We’re starting to get excited too – we booked a week at the beach in January – crossing all our fingers & toes as wed did so!

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      1. I did Brona! My Plague thoughts are on my blog, so you can check them out whenever you find the time. Which beach do you go to? We were just discussing whether to book our annual January Thredbo holiday just the other day. Haven’t yet.

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  3. Brilliant description, Brona. It*s unbelievable that we still haven’t learned from former pandemics. With all the information avaialble nowadays, one would think people would get smarter. But, apparently, they don’t. In Germany, we have ten times the inhabitants as you have but almost 30 times the density. In our state (Lower Saxony), just a little over 70% have been vaccinated and we are one of the higher ones …

    Anyway, for me, the worst part of the pandemic was that I couldn’t see my children who live abroad. And that I have to wear a mask all the time which makes it hard for hubby and me to go out. But, we do it. And we got vaccinated as soon as we could. We don’t want to belong to the victims of Covid.

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    1. When we first started wearing masks last year, I thought I would never get used to them, but now I wear them for 8 hrs a day at work, every day of the week. I almost feel naked when I take it off now!!

      Interesting that German vaccination rates have stalled around 70% – why do you think that is?

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      1. Lucky you. Hubby and I both have problems with the mask, he because of his lungs, me because of my heart. But we wear them whenever we have to. When I see younger people that are obviously healthy who refuse it because they don’t want to live in a fascist state, I can only shake my head.

        I think the main problem that we didn’t get further is that we just had elections and the parties used their propaganda to get elected. Maybe it will get better afterwards though I doubt it.

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      1. Hah Brona, I’m so releived! I find that the WordPress spam filter does a good job. I just moderate the first iteration of a commenter, and once they are approved they are right. That catched the few that WP misses. Otherwise, my WP email and notification settings catch all the coments on my blog, including old posts. I don’t think I miss any because they seem to come at me from a couple of directions! Anyhow, it doesn’t matter of course, I just wondered why as most of us WP users don’t moderate every comment.

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        1. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about the moderating of comments options since the initial set up I did in Dec. I didn’t know there was an approval process for known commenters.

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          1. Yes, there is. In your dashboard under Settings Discussion … I have all the “Email me whenevers” turned on, and for “Before a comment appears” I have “Comment must be manually approved” turned off and “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” turned on.

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    1. Thankfully I’ve missed most of the whining feeds, but I could add a subset of annoyance – people who wear their masks but as soon as they start talking to you, pull it down, so you can (supposedly) hear them better!!!!!! Does my head in – it happens at least three times a day at work!!!

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      1. I know … but if you keep yours on you should be safe!

        I’ve seen journalists in the pressers just pulling it out a bit from their nose, but their face is still covered. Possibly means some “stuff” will escape but hopefully not too much?

        I’ve noticed that some people’s speech is quite muffled through their masks, while others aren’t. The particularly mask? The particular voice?

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  4. I had no idea this was going on, esp the 5k limit – we never had that although we had a thing about staying in your local area but they never explained what that meant, and postcode areas for example can be huge or tiny. I hope it does begin to open up safely soon. We have high rates but lower hospitalisation rates, but lots of people aren’t bothering with masks etc now (not us, we’re still being v cautious) so I’m worried. I worked all the way through so have similarly not peaked on blogging etc., although I’ve got less work than normal at the moment so a bit more reading time.

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    1. Most Sydney suburbs are quite large and sprawling, so the 5km rule helped define what they meant by stay in your local area.

      The high covid rates with lower hospitalisation is what we’re being bombarded with right now – we know that being vaccinated won’t be the be all and end all, & like you, I will continue to wear my mask in public places for many more months to come. Not only for Covid – I’ve also really appreciated 2 winters now, with not one single cold or sore throat. Mask wearing stops all sorts of germs from spreading!

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  5. One aspect of modern society that I find worrying – our inability to learn from the past including past mistakes. We so often hear the heads of companies/public bodies/governments say “lessons will be learned” when some tragedy or wrongdoing is uncovered. But they never seem to ..

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  6. I really appreciate getting an update from the other side of the world! I am very fortunate to live in an area that has not been hit super-hard, but all the same, our hospital is now maxed out. In fact, hospitals all over are being maxed out — even when their local populations are highly vaccinated, there’s a neighboring state taking pride in its rugged independence and producing a ton of bad cases.

    I think you’re right that human beings do not learn lessons! We’ve certainly forgotten what polio, measles, and so on are really like.

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    1. Glad to hear that one pocket of the world is doing okay Jean. My suburb, which is a peninsula, has also been pretty good. But it’s all around us and will be more so, when we reopen. We just have to hope now, that good planning and modelling has gone into this decision.

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  7. I hope Australians aren’t as stubborn and selfish as some Americans. The pandemic could be so much closer to over if the anti-vaxxers weren’t out there raising up a stink all the time.

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    1. A big part of our problem has been the slow rollout of vaccines. When I booked my appointment back in June, mid-August was the first date available & I live in the biggest city in Australia. Smaller cities and towns have struggled to get doses in a timely fashion. Esp. as Sydney took so many of the ‘spare’ doses recently to try and get on top of our outbreak.

      Australia-wide we’re only at 42.9% double dosed. NSW is now at 63%, but that means some of the other states are much further behind than that. Any opening up we do, will only be within the boundaries of NSW.

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  8. That’s fascinating the Plague Lit Learnings Brona, well done on reading through all that and garnering those learnings.

    Today in the south of France we’re temporarily forgetting about covid, as for the first time in 20 years, there’s a red storm warning and all the schools are closed, as we wait for some big rains to come in and flood, made worse by the dry summer, so the water’s rush over the soil and inundate streets and roads. It’s a strange thing to be at home waiting for a storm since 9am when they made the announcement, it’s not 5pm and I heard a thunderclap in the distance, but nothing more as yet.

    The percentage of people vaccinated, began to plateau in summer, until they announced the introduction of a health pass to enter cafes, restaurants, cinemas etc and that, while protested by some, saw a huge surge in numbers, particularly as restaurants were closed for about 7 months here and no one wants to see that happen again. We do seem to be well on the way to learning how to live with it though.

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    1. We have now just got through our first week of ‘opening up’ again. We are doing so in increments. During the week we also hit 80% double vaxxed in NSW. The unvaccinated still have lockdown restrictions applied to them until the 1st Dec. It’s weird times, but glad to hear that in France, living with Covid is becoming a reality.

      PS I hope you all survived the big storm okay.

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      1. The big storm never quite made it to my little corner, but we all stayed home anyway.

        Glad to hear things are opening up for you all, how we appreciate those freedoms when they’ve been taken away as they have been, albeit resuming cautiously.

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  9. I think it’s important to write about this pandemic: for history, for personal records, for sorting it all out emotionally. It’s so interesting to see everyone’s reaction, from fear to trust and everything in between. I am leading a Bible study with Bible Study Fellowship International, and we must comply with our State’s mandates. In Illinois it is to wear a mask, and here I am barely able to recognize the dear women gathered around me. But, I am obedient! And, I surely want everyone to feel safe.

    I love your bob, a style I have largely worn since my thirties. It’s long enough to be feminine, short enough to not be a nuisance. You might even like the silver even more as it grows! I am raced mine, and it is very freeing.

    Best to you, as we progress and keep our love for books going strong!

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    1. I have learnt to recognise people’s hairstyles and eyes thanks to mask wearing, and I have just gone through two whole winters without one single head cold or sore throat! That hasn’t happened since started teaching 30 years ago.
      However my colleague who is hearing impaired has really struggled now that he cannot lip read.

      (sorry for the late reply Meredith, for some reason your comment ended up in the spam folder)

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