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,
- Nay-sayers and deniers
- Conspiracy theorists
- Panic buying/hoarding
- Anti-groups and protests
- Quack remedies
- Neighbours turning against neighbours
- 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.
- The Covid Chronicles #1
- The Covid Chronicles #2
- The Covid Chronicles #3
- The Covid Chronicles #4
- The Covid Chronicles #5
- The Covid Chronicles #6
- The Covid Chronicles #7
- The Covid Chronicles #8
- The Covid Chronicles #9
- The Covid Chronicles #10
- The Covid Chronicles #11
- The Covid Chronicles #12
- The Covid Chronicles #13
- The Covid Chronicles #14
- The Covid Chronicles #15
- 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. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.