Saturday 25 July 2020

The Covid Chronicles #8

Nearly two months ago, I wrote my last Covid Chronicles #7. 

In Australia, our curve had flattened, lockdown conditions had been lifted and our only new cases of coronavirus came from international travellers. All these travellers went into a mandatory 2-week government-controlled quarantine in various hotels around Sydney and Melbourne, before being allowed back out into the world at large.

Covid was still out there, but it seemed like it was a long. long way away.

Around this time Mr Books alerted me to the fringe nutters who were talking about conspiracy theories. Somehow the coronavirus was fake news, man-made, a hoax and deliberately released into the world by a certain nation-state or individuals with ulterior motives, all at the same time. It brought together unlikely bed-fellows with anti-vaxxer's suddenly in bed with right-wing, gun-toting, pro-lifers. A few groups were even trying to find a way to link the virus to anti-5-G issues.

Despite these (amusing) distractions my life has continued on, adjusting to our new normal, laying low and staying pretty quiet. 

Mr Books and I had lunch in a pub with one couple in June, then dinner in a restaurant with another couple in July. We enjoyed a family birthday out one night as well. We've both had a couple of coffee dates with other friends, one at a time. But that's about it.

I try to social distance as much as possible at work and when I go grocery shopping. Most people seem to be cognisant of this too, but a few people are crap. Some people are wasting a lot of time and energy on the blame-game and wishing that life would get back to normal, instead of accepting where we are and trying to get by as best as possible in our new and changing circumstances. 

I've certainly had various ups and downs as I learn to adapt to our new normal. Change is never easy, but it is inevitable. I try to accept rather than rail against the impossible. I avoid large crowds or busy spaces and I haven't been on public transport since March. But I try to not to obsess about it. 

I go for long walks when I can and I'm reading more than ever. A part of me doesn't mind the slower pace of life. I have my family, my work and our house in the mountains to clean every week, after the guests have left. On guest-free weekends, we even get to enjoy a weekend away in our holiday home ourselves.

That seemed to be the state of our new normal.

But then things changed. 

About a month ago, (still to be determined) breaches occurred at two of the quarantine hotels in Melbourne. Private security companies had been given the job to guard the hotels. It turns out their training may have been less than adequate for the job at hand. The seriousness of the situation did not seem apparent to a number of them as they allowed family groups to move between rooms and failed to maintain appropriate social distancing standards. The story is that some of the guards were having sex with some of those in quarantine. It can be hard to separate the urban myth from the reality, so I only repeat this story here as an example of something that has become 'common knowledge' without anyone really knowing for sure.

Very quickly, Victoria, and the Melbourne area in particular, became a covid disaster zone. Within two weeks, Melburnians alone, were exceeding the numbers of positive cases experienced by the entire country back in April. Intensive care wards started filling up and the death rates have crept up again.

The two coronavirus spikes in Australia (so far)

Sadly, we have proven the old adage that the second wave, or the second spike, is usually worse than the first when it comes to epidemics. And most of our second spike has come from just one state at this point.

Wearing masks out of the home is now compulsory for Melburnians and all Victorians have been urged to stay at home. The adjoining states quickly closed their borders to Victorian travellers as, those living in the greater Melbourne area went back into stage 3 lockdown. 

But not before a Victorian traveller managed to infect the staff and patrons of a club in south Sydney. One of the patrons then had dinner at a neighbouring Thai restaurant, and one of those diners went to the Hunter Valley and another went to five funerals in five separate venues in one week. And so it goes.

Suddenly NSW has three hotspots or clusters. A few churches and schools have been closed down this week for deep-cleans and record numbers of people are turning up to be tested again.

Mr Books had to take a trip to southern NSW a fortnight ago. Within days of returning, he came down with a nasty cold. On Sunday afternoon, we both lined up to get tested. Our negative results came back on Tuesday evening. That was two whole days where we had to stay at home and self-isolate. Two whole days where I could not go to work.

I'm lucky, my work is understanding and thanks to government schemes like JobKeeper, I still get enough pay for those days off. But this current outbreak of covid in Australia has once again highlighted the disparity in work conditions for many Australians. It would appear that around half of the Victorians being tested for covid were not self-isolating while they waited for their results to come back. They felt they could not afford to miss those two days of work and the pay that went with it. 

There is also a sense that most Australians will not be happy about having to go back into lockdown and that compliance could be an issue going forward. The economic downturn is starting to bite as we look to a twenty year future of paying off the deficit incurred during covid. No-one seems to be denying the necessity of this debt (except for ultra-right-wing conspiracy theorists) as most people have benefited from the support and most people understand how much worse things could have been if none of the support packages had been on offer. 

Everyone we know has had reduced hours at work or has lost a job. Almost every small business I know is struggling to keep it all going. JobKeeper and small business packages are the only thing keeping retail alive at the moment. We are all aware that a number of businesses will not survive. That means more job losses and less money flowing through the local economy.

NSW has had 82 locally acquired covid cases this week. After so many weeks with none, it is a rude shock to realise that our covid roller-coaster ride is about to go up again.

We have bought a couple of packs of medical disposable face masks and I've placed an order for some pretty silk ones. I suspect mandatory (or at least strongly recommended) face mask wearing in public is not very far away for those of us in Sydney.

Adapt and be prepared is my new motto!

Take care; take heart.


  1. It's a mad house here in Texas. After Memorial Day at the end of May, the governor opened up the state and numbers of cases rapidly started rising. Schools were asked to open to in-person classes (!) but we've so many cases the education agency finally relented and said schools could start virtually. There is a huge anti-mask group, including my brother.

    And there's a tropical storm offshore....

    1. I simply do not understand the anti-mask people. Surgeons wear masks for hours on end when operating. Dentists wear masks all day at work. They can still get enough oxygen to perform these serious jobs properly. Early on we were told not to wear masks simply because there were not enough to go around and they wanted to save them for people working in hospitals, nursing homes and testing centres. I personally would prefer to be safe than sorry.

      I've also heard people here say everything will be alright when summer comes around again for us. I scratch my head in puzzlement and ask them what do they think that will do. Apparently the heat will kill the virus. They seem to have forgotten that the entire Northern Hemisphere is currently experiencing summer and it certainly hasn't stopped or slowed down in the heat in the US or Brazil or India or Indonesia or Japan or the UK or France or Spain....

  2. I live in The Philippines. The country locked down early and implemented strict quarateen rules in worse hit areas. Large gatherings are banned and no one goes outside Without a mask. As a result of this The infection rate is way lower than The UK, The USA and Brazil.

    As I am 73 and my lungs are weak,I have been outside for only three hours since March 3rd. Two of our adult daughters are back home, one WFH and one waiting to go back to school. We suffer no material deprivation and we like having our daughters home. We can get anything we need delivered. Millions in the Philippines are now experiencing food anxiety so my family and I know we are lucky.

    In the 3.5 months I have gone through slow reading periods, binging on Netflix and Amazon Video. I have made it a practice to read one short story every day. I set aside two very long, 1000 pages plus novels to read. I began reading science fiction and fantasy works for escaping. Some days I follow the news but somedays just want to forget it. I also posted on works by writer friends who were in Italy during the worse time to support them.

    This month I am participating in a book blog event Paris in July which is getting me back to more reading.

    I also read a few set in the Holocaust short stories so I can see how trivial my issues are.

    My blog readership has declined by 50%, caused by the closing of schools worldwide.

    1. Mel things certainly sound intense in the Philippines, but as you say, wearing masks has actually helped your country. I simply do not understand the resistance to wearing them by some sections within Western community.

      Like you I struggled to read in the early stages of the pandemic, but I'm now enjoying our quiet evenings and weekends at home for all the reading time it has given me back.
      Which two 1000 pg books have you set aside to read soon?

    2. I choose two long books I had on my to be read list for years. One Is A Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. Set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The second I read about forty years ago, The Recognitions by William Gaddis

      The Philippines locked down early and this prevented 1000s of deaths. There were very strict rules such as only one person from a family can Go outside. That person needs a Baragay pass, The Police stopped people and checked them.Filipinos tend to follow government orders. The Policy is set by The central government Under threat of martial Law if not followed. Most people here are just concerned with getting through this,

  3. Thank you for your report from the middle of things. We are reopening in the UK but we ourselves are being more cautious than we are "permitted to be". For example, I'm not going to the hairdresser (fortunately I had a decent cut in Feb and it's working its way to looking like my picture on my avatar here again!) and the pub, I have been getting takeout coffees from our favourite local place and we've had some takeaway meals. My husband has been on a 10% pay reduction (but the big bosses took 50% and next level 30% and he got to reduce his hours, too, so it didn't feel too bad) and I am working as normal (although a magazine has just closed and a big paper really cut down staff so I may not have as much of certain of my work as I used to). Friends who are self-employed have taken the govt loans and payouts and have done OK. We're just waiting for a second wave here now, though. Take care and stay well!

    1. Glad to hear you and hubby are managing well so far.
      Like you, this is the longest my hair has been since I was 25. But I do have an appt next week - too much grey is creeping in and I'm not ready to go au natural just yet :-D

  4. nw oregon... not much going on here... shoppers still wear masks, altho some object... mrs. m had several bad experiences in the local grocery store, with one fellow invading her space and another licking bread wrappers... some crazy people out there... i still go for a bike ride 2 or 3 times a week without a mask, but i rarely see or get close to others... the incidence of contamination remains quite low here, except on the coast near Astoria and points south, where there's comparatively a larger number of cases... no cases locally, where we live; how lucky we are!

    1. Glad to hear that some of the states and cities in the US are doing okay. Our news makes the whole country sound rather dire with rampant virus stats and rioters looting! Reminds me that you are a big country, like Australia, and just because one city or state is having a crisis, it doesn't necessarily mean the whole country is going through the same thing.

    2. Even where there IS violence from the protests/looting/police madness, it's confined to a very small area of the affected city. Most of us are living boring lives stuck at home, except with way more political stress. :/

  5. Oh, no, I'm so sorry it's erupted again in Australia...I hope they manage to contain it.

    Our county, in rural Northern California, has not been hard hit so far but our numbers are increasing steadily now. At first, not very many people wore masks, but now it's legally mandated, though you don't get arrested for lack of compliance, and I've been happy to see that nearly all people are wearing them. Husband and I are both working from home. The school board had decided to open school next month, dividing the students in half and having separate am/pm schedules, but I don't think the schools will be opening at all. We're on the state watchlist now.

    Also, I tell you what, it's dang hot here and that hasn't made it disappear. My personal opinion is that if Certain People in our US Government had set the example of mask-wearing in the first place, there wouldn't be nearly so many people screaming about our freedoms and/or conspiracy theories, or making up silly statements about how unhealthy masks are. Sigh. It's very depressing living in the US right about now.

    1. Glad to hear you and your family are doing fine so far Jean.

      A part of me understands why people put off wearing face masks - I have been. But we're not a serious level at the moment. The next week will be crucial here. As long as they keep on contract tracing every single case (which they're on top of at the moment) I feel pretty confident. It's if the community transmission and contact tracing falls down, we will have to quickly reassess things. Fingers crossed for NSW right now!

  6. I am so sorry to hear that second peak has started in Australia. Here in Turkey we don't hear much about southern hemisphere. Here it's summer and so hot but numbers are same around 1000 infected every day. Wearing face masks is mandotary but life is going on. Streets are very busy people travel to southern cities for holiday. And schools are going to open at the end of august. God knows what will happen. People lose their jobs economy can't withstand this. I wait for the vaccination news and we will get rid of this together and go back to our old normal lives again:(

    1. It's interesting to find out just how many countries and states are insisting on face masks.
      And yes, you're right, it's the economic situation going forward that will start to hurt even more than the virus.

  7. I am sorry to hear of the rise of cases again in Australia. It seems that is the case everywhere as the second wave is looking worse than the first wave. Or are we still in the first wave? You are lucky to get your test results back in two days ... as where I am right now in southern California I took a Covid test today and they told me 3 to 5 days for the results. The labs here are backed up ... so the results are not back in a timely manner which is tough!

    1. Many of the journalists and medicos have twisted themselves in knots discussing whether it's a second wave or not. Some prefer the phrase second spike, but most seem to be saying it's just the virus and it's one long wave that ebbs and flows. Whatever it is, in Australia, it's back!

  8. It is hard here in Melbourne. The numbers don't seem to be coming down, they are finding it hard to trace where all the cases come from which increases the theory that it is community spread. I was glad to see that most poeple had masks when I was at the supermarket but not everyone was wearing them properly. I can't see that our lockdown won't be either heightened in strictness or extended.

    1. I feel for you all so much down there. We have family in Melbourne and around the Mornington Peninsula, so we get regular updates. We're all in dread that it will eventually come to that in NSW again before much longer.

      Take care Marg and hope you continue well and safe xo


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