Tuesday 12 May 2020

The Covid Chronicles #6

It's day 44 of the NSW lockdown and the end is in sight. Restrictions have been gradually easing these past couple of weeks, and by Friday we will once again, be able to enjoy a coffee or a meal in a restaurant, 10 people at a time. 

People who have been working from home for nearly 2 months are slowly trickling back into the office. Schools have just reopened part-time. And our local high street is buzzing with pent-up energy and the desire to spend money. It may just be the first flush of excitement as a few shops reopen (including the bookshop I manage, which is why I've been a bit quiet lately), but there is a real sense of release and exhilaration in the air. 

People can start seeing other couples or families at a safe social distance, weddings will be able to include 10 guests and funerals 20. Places of worship can reopen and have 10 worshippers. Outdoor pools and gyms can, once again, be used with a few restrictions. Regional and interstate holidays are still a no-go, but for the past two weekends we've been able to visit our own holiday home in the mountains. Since last week it is possible to get a remedial massage and to get your hair done (yippee!! guess what I'm doing tomorrow on my day off :-)

We're all still aware that the virus is out there and will be until a cure or vaccination is discovered. We still have to exercise caution and care, especially as we are about to enter the colder winter months. However, there's also a real sense of self-congratulation. 

We hunkered down early, closed our borders, and effected strict quarantine measures for anyone who did fly in from overseas. As a result our first round with Covid-19 has been fairly mild. We've only had 97 deaths nationwide. Today was our first day in NSW with no new cases of Covid recorded from over 6000 tests.

People have been out of work for up to two months and some businesses have gone under. Some have kept going but will struggle to survive. It has not been an easy time for many. Lots of people will be nervous about going back out into the world again. The elderly and unwell are still being encouraged to stay at home. Anyone with a scratchy throat or aches and pains is being urged to get tested straight away. 

Our government also issued a Covid app that uses bluetooth to track who you come into contact with. The idea is that if you test positive at any point, they can use the data from the app to contact anyone else that you came into close contact with during your infectious period. 

Needless to say, there has been a fair bit of debate around this re privacy issues and who gets the data. I'm in the, facebook-knows-more-about-me-than-this-app school of thought. Although I was sceptical to start with. But then I read up on it, discussed it with a few people and finally downloaded the app a couple of days after it was launched. It does not use GPS, only bluetooth and if it means we can ease restrictions sooner rather than later, it's worth a shot. I'd certainly like to know if that customer I served on Thursday, tested positive on Friday. Without the app, it would be too hard to track this kind of incidental contact. 

I really only had about 10 days in proper lockdown, before starting back at work, so I don't know what it's like to have been out of work for nearly 2 months with no guarantee about if or when I might start up again. Mr Books has been working from home and B19 is still an essential working plugging away at his pharmacy retail job. B22 is working from home part-time and slowly going stir crazy. Our extended family have all been fine, with only one cousin, who is a nurse, having to be tested and self-isolate for two weeks after an outbreak at work. She was negative, but the whole ward was shut down, thoroughly cleaned, with new procedures and protocols prepared for the eventual reopening.

A friend in the UK was sick, most likely with Covid, but since testing has been so limited there, they don't know for sure. Despite presenting with all the symptoms and being quite unwell for a couple of weeks, she simply stayed at home with some supervision/advice from a GP and care from her lovely hubby. 

I feel fortunate to have had so few personal brushes with the virus. I feel grateful that we're of an age and stage in life, where we are financially secure and able to weather any economic downturn. I'm glad the boys are old enough to look after themselves; we haven't had to home school or keep young children amused during this time. We are so lucky that all our jobs have been able to continue during this time one way or another. I'm thankful for our robust mental health and resilience. We've all had down days, days of doubt and insecurity, but we bounce back. We are, in fact, annoyingly positive and hopeful most of the time, confident of our ability to cope.

I love some of the changes this time has brought in. 

We now have regular stay-at-home family games nights. We're enjoying the slower pace of life; whole weekends of having nowhere to go. Staying at home instead, reading, puzzling, gardening and just hanging out together. We may be drinking a little more than usual though. 

I was enjoying lovely long walks around my suburb before going back to work and daylight savings ended. I miss being able to do that every day already. After three weeks back at work, I'm wondering how on earth I used to fit everything in. I don't want my life to be as rushed, scheduled and hectic as it used to be, but it seems to be slowly happening whether I like it or not.

History tells us that there will be a second, and most likely, a third wave of this pandemic. It's not over yet, even though, at the moment, everyone (in my suburb) is kind of acting like it is. 

It has been a weird time and the weird times are not over.

I've just started a book called Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman. In the first few pages he discusses how we (humans) have an (erroneous) belief that we will revert to some form of base behaviour in times of crisis. Yet nearly 700 field studies have proved the exact opposite,
there's never total mayhem. It's never every man for himself. Crime - murder, burglary, rape - usually drops. People don't go into shock, they stay calm and spring into action....Catastrophes bring out the best in people.

I have to believe this world-wide crisis will make us better human beings, despite some very specific individual examples that might say otherwise. They are, in fact, the minority. History and science are on our side. As a species we are wired to cope and carry-on. It's what we've been doing for millennia; and it's what we will keep on doing.

Stay safe and I hope this finds you well.
Take care; take heart.
The Covid Chronicles #6


  1. Only 97 deaths nationwide! My state has had 1500 deaths; but we're being really liberal with our numbers. Our governor has us in lockdown indefinitely, and it is taking its toll on the mental and emotional health of people, and physical, for those of us who cannot use the gym. Everything social is off limits. (I'm about to loose my mind!) The worst is not being able to accompany loved ones into the hospital, ER, or doctor visits for non-coronavirus emergencies or other treatments. I cannot wait for this to be done; but like you said, it's not. :

    1. Yes, we have been very fortunate in Australia. A large number of our deaths came from a cruise ship that docked just before lockdown. In fact, most of the cases nationwide had contact with someone coming in from overseas. Closing our borders and strict quarantine measures seemed to have saved us from the worst. Of course, our population is only 26 million - somewhere between the populations of Texas and Florida.

      I know our 2 boys are thrilled that gyms will be allowed to reopen on the weekend. One set up a personal gym zone in the spare bedroom; the other has taken up walking with his GF, but they miss their gym workouts.

      It must be hard not being able to help your family during this time. Our extended families have always lived away from us, so not being able to help each other (other than face time chats and sending book parcels) is not something we've had to deal with.

      However, it's the next couple of years that will be really tough. Socially distancing will be the norm for quite a long time, but so many people are going to lose jobs as businesses go bust. Small business was a problem in Sydney before this crisis - high rents, low turnover, casualised workforce - it wasn't a sustainable model. The only positive for some high streets right now are the number of people working from home, who are shopping local again.

      Our government has been very proactive with social service packages to those in need and mental health services are getting a boost in funding. It means people can pay their rent/mortgage and have enough to eat. It also means we will be paying it off for another decade via taxes :-/

  2. Human Kind is a book I want to read, the author was mentioned in a recent article I read on FB, about a group of 6 students who were marooned for over a year in the South Pacific in 1966 and how they worked together and treated each other very well. Yay for Human Kindness.

    1. It's certainly seems like the right book for now!

  3. Australia has handled this crisis extremely well - with prompt action on isolation and testing. If the UK had adopted stricter controls even a week earlier we would have seen fewer cases but stupidly some big events were allowed to go ahead. Some places are now being able to re-open though it doesn't look like any cafes/restaurants will be open for months yet. But even when facilities can open it will be under restrictions that I suspect will make them unviable - if your restaurant needs 70% occupancy of tables being told you have to sit people at every other table, severely limits their income. Same with shops that require a certain level of throughput. So I fear our high street shops which were already suffering are going to disappear....

    1. Sad to say, some of our media commentators do hold up the UK and the US examples as what might have happened if we hadn't shut down so quickly. The hard part for us now that restrictions are easing, is to not become complacent. A number of people seem to believe that it's all over and are acting accordingly. We have to get through winter yet though....

  4. I so agree that catastrophes can bring out the best in people. We've seen it at our church's food pantry, which has been serving hundreds of people each week, when we used to serve 50 or so in a typical week. We're located near one of the hardest hit communities in our area, both in terms of illness and or job loss, so the need is great. But the whole community has stepped up to help us keep going. Other churches have sent volunteers, and local residents and businesses are donating food, toiletries, and money. Under regular circumstances, we sometimes had shortages just serving 50 people, but as far as I know we've been able to give a bag of food to everyone who shows up--often more than we could in the past.

    I try to focus on stories like that, instead of the ones about armed protest and refusals to wear masks. Those stories are horrible and something to be concerned about, but I'm not sure they represent the norm.

    1. That is such a heartening story Teresa, thank you for sharing it. Economically, we've all got some tough times coming, so I hope that level of generosity and compassion can continue.

      I regularly remind myself of all the wonderful people I've got to know in blogging land over the years from the US, who are nothing like the people I see on the news. It's frustrating that a such a vocal minority gets the attention so often. But I guess that's how news works. All good and everyone is considerate today, doesn't make a headline that will sell!

  5. Stay annoyingly positive! I've been conscious all along of my luck in working in a job that a) continues to be needed; and b) doesn't keep me at home. Every now and again though I'll think [swearword] I've got back in the truck without washing my hands. That's new!

    1. Because my first career was with young children and my second, dealing with the public, hand washing is something I felt I was pretty good at (even if I didn't sing happy Birthday all the way through each time!)
      But washing all my clothes after only one wearing and coming home and having a shower straight away is something unusual for me. I wont even kiss Mr Books hello in the evening until we've both showered from our days out in corana-land!

      With travel restrictions easing within NSW next weekend, we've suddenly had a flurry of bookings on our airbnb home and we have to work out the cleaning schedule for how to manage this now. The slow living life is rapidly slipping through my fingers...


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