Saturday 19 December 2020

The Covid Chronicles #9

I cannot believe the last time I sat down to write a Covid Chronicle was back in July.

Melbourne was at the beginning of it's second wave, while the rest of the country held it's collective breath. Would the outbreak spread? Would we all have to go into another lockdown?

Numbers steadily increased around the three hotspots in Sydney and by August most of the states had closed their borders to each other. Anyone coming or going from one state to the next, would have to self-isolate for two weeks. A very tricky situation for long haul truck drivers, in particular, to manage.

Melburnians went into a hard stage 4 lockdown on the 2nd August when their Premier announced a state of disaster. They had a week or so of 600+ positive cases a day, before the restrictions started to take effect and a steady decline in positive cases set in.

I began wearing a mask to work and anytime I had to be in a shop. It wasn't mandatory in NSW, just highly recommended by health officials. I was dealing with the public every day, so it seemed like an easy and simple thing to do to keep me from catching a virus that I'd rather not catch.

By the end of August the few hotspots in Sydney were all under control, with contract tracing and self-isolation doing the trick.

Interstate travel was still almost impossible, so we all enjoyed our spring break closer to home. Mr Books and I had a lovely week in the Port Stephens area, walking along the beach, reading and relaxing. We have been holidaying in this area for over 20 years now; it was the busiest we have ever seen it. 

Our holiday home in the Blue Mountains has been booked out every single weekend since July when state-wide travel reopened. We have never been busier.

By the middle of September, NSW basically had zero community transmission. I was able to leave the mask at home again, much to the relief of my hearing impaired colleague who had been unable to lip read during the whole mask-wearing phase.

Melbourne was getting on top it's second wave and it seemed like their tough approach was turning things around. By the end of September, they were able to finally ease restrictions.

A Trans-Tasman bubble came into effect in October between New Zealand and NSW, the ACT and Northern Territory. There were a couple of hiccups at the start, but it seems to be working well now.

On the 24th October, Victoria recorded 98 active cases; this was the first time since the 19th June in which Victoria had under 100 cases. Two days later they recorded zero new cases and zero deaths - a double doughnut day - as another new phrase entered our Covid-normal world!

November saw most of the states reopen their borders to each other as state by state we continue to achieve days and weeks with no new locally acquired cases. Melbourne has had no new cases since November 23rd and Sydney has enjoyed a similar story...until this week (see below).

A scare in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago, reminded us how quickly things can change. Lockdowns were announced and borders closed, before officials discovered that one of the key new cases in their cluster had lied about where he was and for how long. They were not dealing with a new, more virulent strain of the virus after all; just a quarantine hotel worker who didn't want to declare that he had a second job elsewhere.

Once again, government officials, and the media, were caught unawares by the economic realities of one of our citizens. 

But we can never completely breathe a sigh of relief. 

We watch in horror as Europe and the US descend back into a Covid disaster zone. We may grumble about our government officials at times, but most Australians are happy with how our Covid crisis has been handled. Overseas travel may not be a sensible thing to do right now, but as long as we can travel interstate, we're happy. Business is booming in every single holiday area - coastal, mountains and the outback. Towns known for their wineries, food, water activities or bushwalking are booked out months in advance. The local tourism industry is back in business with a vengeance. 

Will this last?


Three days ago, a community case of Covid popped up in and around Avalon and Palm Beach, on the northern beaches of Sydney (home of 'Home & Away' for those of you in the UK). 

Yesterday, the number of positive cases jumped to 28 with the areas of concern stretching into Cronulla (down south), Penrith (western Sydney) and Woolloomooloo (city). Residents of the Northern beaches area are being urged to get tested and stay at home for three days, to give the authorities time to track down the source and ramp up the contact tracing for those being identified as positive.

Our fragile borders with other states became apparent once again, as WA quickly quarantined any incoming flights from Sydney while the other states nervously consider what to do next. Our Christmas guests from Victoria, planning to stay in our holiday home, cancelled last night due to the uncertainly of the situation once again. Northern beaches residents planning to go interstate for Christmas, will no longer be granted entry to other states. Anyone who has booked a holiday house to play in 'Summer Bay', will no doubt be seriously reconsidering their options too. 

This is how we roll now. Plans can change in the blink of an eye. We are all learning to be uber-flexible. Any reprieve is short-lived. We all live in hope that the new vaccines will be successful, with no side effects. Although, it will be March 2021 before we start any vaccination proceedings in Australia.

Until then, 

Take care; take heart.

And please let me know how you're going, wherever you are in the world.

The Northern Beaches suburbs:
  • Allambie Heights
  • Avalon Beach
  • Balgowlah
  • Balgowlah Heights
  • Bayview
  • Beacon Hill
  • Belrose
  • Bilgola Beach
  • Bilgola Plateau
  • Brookvale
  • Church Point
  • Clareville
  • Clontarf
  • Coasters Retreat
  • Collaroy
  • Collaroy Plateau
  • Cottage Point
  • Cromer
  • Curl Curl
  • Currawong Beach
  • Davidson
  • Dee Why
  • Duffys Forest
  • Elanora Heights
  • Elvina Bay
  • Fairlight
  • Forestville
  • Frenchs Forest
  • Freshwater
  • Great Mackerel Beach
  • Ingleside
  • Killarney Heights
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase
  • Lovett Bay
  • Manly
  • Manly Vale,
  • McCarrs Creek
  • Mona Vale
  • Morning Bay
  • Narrabeen
  • Narraweena
  • Newport
  • North Balgowlah
  • North Curl Curl
  • North Manly
  • North Narrabeen
  • Oxford Falls
  • Palm Beach
  • Pittwater
  • Queenscliff
  • Scotland Island
  • Seaforth
  • Terrey Hills
  • Warriewood
  • Whale Beach
  • Wheeler Heights


  1. What a year! The cases and restrictions are up, then they are down, then up and down, everywhere it seems, including where I live in California. In our county most of the deaths are in acute care/assisted living homes where people are old and already ill. The five recent deaths here included 3 people in their nineties. We old people are most vulnerable of course. Stay well.

    1. The elderly are certainly the most vulnerable group, but as our media likes to remind us, anyone from any age group can become sick with the virus. But very glad to hear you're doing fine right now where you are.

  2. I'm bored Brona. Iso, iso, iso. I'm on day 10 this time, four to go. Much better than getting it, of course. No one has that I know, which can't possibly be the case overseas. I'm getting lots of reading and writing done (and a bit of work on the truck) but no shopping. I'd better see what my daughter can do for me.

    1. I was thinking of you in particular Bill as I wrote this piece - how many self-isolating fortnights have you done so far this year?
      The only people I know who've had the virus so far, are in the UK or US. They've all said it was the sickest they have ever been, but fine now, thankfully.
      Four more sleeps until freedom :-)

    2. Lots, effectively continuously for 5 months. But then that applies to all single people in Melbourne (including my mum), not just truck drivers.

  3. NL: We are in FULL lockdown until 19th January. No non-essential shops open (..I got my haircut just in the nick of time), no school, no caf├ęs, restaurants are open and tourism has come to a halt with all our iconic museums closed. Police are worried about what will happen on our very first New Years Eve without fireworks...there are going to be a lot of very angry "kids" in this country. The PM might even issue a curfew that night...wait and see. The Netherlands operates very strict procedures..and is waiting until 08 Jan 2021 to start vaccinating. I wonder when I will get a message to get a shot? Reading...but feel I'm slippping into a pre Xmas dip. I read so much for your challenge that I have to back off for awhile and start 2021 we my batteries fully charged! Thanks for the AUS Covid update.....

    1. I'm also experiencing a pre-xmas reading slump. This time last year I read a whole stack of contemporary fiction for Diverse December, but this year, I;m just trying to finish off as many of the almost-finished books by my bed, lying around the house and in my backpack before the end of the year, so I can start the NY with a fresh reading frame of mind.

      The 9 o'clock fireworks have been cancelled here for NYE, but the midnight one's are going ahead. Everyone is urged to watch them from home though. All the local parks in our suburb, that are normally packed on NYE, will be closed. We will see how it goes....
      Take care Nancy xoxo

  4. I'm in Canada. Ontario actually, just outside Toronto. Which is considered the hot spot here. On Monday, our 28 day lockdown begins. Our province is gaining over 2000 COVID positives a day! We're rising so fast it's scary. It's a lockdown or we all get sick.

    1. Our numbers are minor compared to those we see around the world, but we did get rather used to having no cases for a month or so there, so it's a rude shock to suddenly have a cluster that is now up to 38 cases in just three days.

      The NSW govt is trying a short, sharp localised lockdown to see if that will keep it contained. From 5pm yesterday and until 11:59pm on Wednesday 23rd, Northern Beaches residents must remain home and only leave for essential reasons such as work, shopping, medical care, compassionate grounds and exercise.

      It is scary how things can spiral out of control so quickly. And it's the medical teams that cop the worst of it. Overcrowding in wards, long shifts, staff becoming ill too and not enough ventilators to go around.

      Ridiculously long queues at testing clinics is the other problem. We've had all year to organise things like pop-up testing clinics that could swing into action if there is an outbreak, yet they still don't seem to be enough. People reporting that they've had to wait in line 8 hrs to get tested! These are the things we will have to improve going forward. If it's too hard to get tested, then people won't. And that's when you lose all control of the spread of the virus. This virus or any future one.

  5. Covid is indeed a terrible thing to have happened to all of us. Let's hope we all learn from this and that we will lead a better life after this.

    1. Certainly anyone with a desire to going into medical research, testing and development, nursing or the manufacturing of ventilators, now is the time to sign up. Your future job prospects will be very good indeed! I suspect that pop-up testing clinics and vaccine development will be on the cards for some time to come.

    2. Let's hope so. They're still terribly underpaid all around the world. I have always said they are my heroes but they should be compensated better for what they do. So, there's something I hope will change.

  6. In B.C. (Canada) 2/3 of the deaths are from care homes and 85% are people over 75 years of age. Our last count for the mean age of death was 85 years old (down from the first wave which was 87 years old). While cases are up and people are certainly catching the virus, it doesn't for the most part affect most people that much. However, we are in lockdown in that stores are open but you have to wear a mask but the worst part is that they are saying households cannot have family in for Christmas. If you are a single person you are allowed to visit with two other people but households with more than one person must remain isolated. So many people are not allowed to see parts of their family for Christmas. If they catch you breaking the rules you can be fined around $2,000.00 and they are hiring more police to spy on households to catch them. It seems rather draconian measures to me given our stats and given that most of the deaths are from care homes. I'm worried that by focusing so much on the people who are not going to be affected, that they are not putting enough effort into those who are. I help a couple who are at risk and the care workers who help them are not supposed to be rotated yet they've had new workers three times in the past while. So right now I'm very concerned about the elderly and what is being done for them. In any case, thanks for the update, Brona. It's helpful to hear what happening around the world.

    1. The concern here is another wave that causes the hospital system to be overstretched. We know a number of nurses who are currently living with a HUGE amount of fear that we are about to have another wave. It's the people who become seriously ill and require hospitalisation and ICU care that worry us the most. Most of these patients will most likely survive, but it takes a HUGE toll on our medical teams and systems. Hopefully this will get better as time goes by, with more staff being trained and more PPE and ventilators. The number of doctors and nurses who got sick during the last wave in Victoria was distressing and concerning too. It added another level of crisis to the wave.

    2. It's very difficult, isn't it? In the first wave we (my province) had 4,000 beds waiting for COVID patients and I think around 200 people were hospitalized and most other procedures other than emergencies were cancelled. I had one friend from an outlying community who had a procedure at the time and she said the hospital was nearly deserted. In the second surge, they have around 2,000-2,500 beds and there are 352 COVID patients in the hospital from the last stats. So it seems we are not anywhere near a concern yet we keep hearing on the news about the hospital systems being overstretched. It's very puzzling. However, I think they shut everything else down during the first wave and I don't think they have the second wave so they might be more busy. And, of course, the cities are going to be stretched more than the outlying areas. I read in one article about a month ago that our hospitals are at about 73% capacity but before COVID they were at 103% capacity! I think it's the unknown that unsettles people and that unknown is still there. Let's hope for a better 2021!

    3. Canada obviously has a very good hospital system. Ours was stretched to capacity before Covid, so this year has really tested it. Each state has slightly different ways of managing their health depts too, which may have been why Victoria struggled during their second wave.
      I know a number of people who put off having elective surgery during the early stages of Covid, but have since had their procedures now we have a better handle on things. It's a vexing and complexing time for sure!

  7. I'm glad to see your update, Brona! Our local area is seeing the first really big spike we've had -- we had a small spike in August, and almost nothing through October, but now it's not good. So it's a boring stay-at-home Christmas....

    1. I think boring-stay-at-home Christmas is something we all have to look forward to! We were planning on going away to be with my extended family, but it's all in doubt now.

      Thankfully, all of us here in blogland, are readers. People who don't have the comfort and solace of reading to fall back on must be doing it even tougher.

  8. breaking news here in NL...all flights from UK banned from entering NL as of 1,5 hour ago. New very contagious mutation of the virus raging in England...and also found in NL. Hundreds of flights leading up to Xmas cancelled from UK. THIS IS A VERY BOLD STEP

    1. And a necessary one if we all want to survive. I hope other countries will follow.

    2. I've always thought flights should have been halted in the first place but I don't know enough about the repercussions from that step so that's only my very uninformed opinion. :-) I've heard some virology talks and they said usually when a virus mutates it becomes less serious; it's only if it hits the jackpot does it become moreso. Covid has already mutated a number of times, it's just that this mutation is making it spread faster. Let's hope it doesn't hit the jackpot.

    3. We basically stopped all international flights back in March. Anyone coming in since then has had to quarantine for 2 weeks. At first, the tourism industry was devastated (especially the areas that had been impacted by the bushfires over summer), but once some of our local restrictions eased, local tourism went beserk! All those people who usually travelled overseas for the northern summer, rediscovered their own state or city instead. One of best sellers at work this year has been the ultimate road trips around Australia guide!

      The airlines have been hit hard though, with crews being laid off plus baggage handlers, flight centres etc.

      Genome sequencing seems to be the new catch-phrase here. We know that the new cluster was probably introduced from someone who arrived from overseas on the 1st Dec and that all but two of the 87 positive cases seem to have come from this one, as yet unknown, source. Fingers crossed the northern beaches lockdown will do the trick.

    4. It's so much easier for you as an island. Germany has nine neighbour countries and people along the border usually travel back and forth just for shopping. They closed shops in Belgium and towns along the border in Germany and the Netherlands were inundated with Belgian shoppers. We're still doing a lot better than many of the other countries but that's not enough, surely.

    5. That's a good point, Marianne. We have the ocean on one side of us, the U.S. with a closed border on one, a sparsely populated territory on another and then one border with another province, so I wonder if that's why we've done better.

    6. Being an island has helped us a LOT, but each state does their own thing - closing borders to each other on a regular basis, anytime there is an outbreak. At the moment, no one from Sydney will be able to travel interstate for Christmas. The borders are closed to us.
      Rural NSW is different, as long as they don't come into Sydney for flights!
      We have always had pretty strict quarantine controls around Australia to prevent the spread of things like fruit fly, so in some ways we are used to have border checks.

    7. Oh, we've had that with our states. They all did their different things. But it's so easy here to get from one into the other (no borders and so close by) and people who don't want to follow the rules just don't. :-(

  9. A weird year indeed. France was in full lockdown in the spring, reopened everything in july, went back on partial lockdown in october and everything is opened since the beginning of the week for the holidays. Which means that there will probably be a third wave and a third lockdown, since the numbers are not good. Vaccines have been made but Covid is mutating... Oh well, we'll have to see where it all goes ? I've been wearing a mask outside home since march, wash my hands thoroughly, have a bottle of disinfectant in my bag, keep my distances and all that. Our president has the Covid and I can't help but think that he had it coming ! Saying that every progress made was due to the government and every relapse due to the French people (silly us !), well he got it too, bien fait ! Take care Brona :)

    1. Do you know if where you are, like some other places, it's mainly serious with the elderly? Have they told you any percentages? I can't get anything useful from our news as they only seem to tell you what they want to spread panic. I've heard a few people here have been watching Australian news to get a more balanced picture. I've just been watching the stats from our Centre for Disease Control for what is actually happening.

    2. I have no added a daily update image that our government health site provides every day. yes most of the people who end up dying are the elderly (70+) but it's all the people who become ill and require hospitalisation, before eventually recovering, that are the biggest concern. During the Victorian outbreak in July/August, the hospital system, the staff, PPE and ventilators were stretched to breaking point. The graph that shows admitted to hospital and the number in ICU were the numbers of most concern. The day the Melbourne hospitals released their last Covid patient was a big celebration. We have nurses in our family and they are feeling pretty ragged right now and have a HUGE fear of another wave.

  10. Very interesting to read what's happening there as we get little news from here. We're in a heavy lockdown in the UK with Christmas suddenly scaled back just when people had done all their food shopping. My Polish cousin in law loses his family Christmas Eve, so important to our European friends and family. I know so many people who've had covid but all have survived so far. Love and health to you and all the blog followers x

    1. Curiously I work with a second gen Pole, and she is delighted that the huge, extended Polish Christmas Eve will not happen this year! But that's a generational thing I'm sure...& maybe she will come to miss being asked why she is still single by every single aunt, cousin and distant out law :-)

      Glad to hear you are safe and well Liz.

  11. One of my kids said to me the other day, "Did you know that they're all free in Australia? No masks, nothing!" (Obviously old news, but I don't know anything bc I have cut myself off from news and social media. I really needed a break.)

    In Southern California, nothing is different to me since March bc I have not changed my routine. I don't anywhere, as there is no where to go (except the gym, which is sparse, and my church, which is also sparse.)

    When I need groceries, my husband and I shop early when rarely anyone is out. You can only go through a drive thru or do take out for restaurants, or do outdoor dining, (which I've not done). No sports events, no school, no entertainment, no theater, no museums, no libraries (maybe curbside), no gardens. Some of these places tried alternatives, but with lots of restrictions, and have since been shutdown again.

    And last month our governor set a curfew at 10pm, while some counties cut outdoor dining. My City completely shutdown recently.

    But, so many people are still having house gatherings, parties, and the like.
    This is where transmissions are happening (70%), although most recover if they get sick. I don't even know how people can get on a plane and travel. The mask is not 100%; it's more like 10-30% and only affects transmission to others. I know of two nurses who got Covid, even wearing the best PPE, although one said she was only wearing a paper mask and didn't know her patient was positive.

    1. It's such a trying time isn't it Ruth.
      And yes, we do appreciate how much easier we have had it in Australia overall. Our NSW Premier is constantly praising our contact tracing system as being the best in the world. Certainly listening to them this week, as they track down how this latest cluster started and how it is spreading, is encouraging and even reassuring. Although it turns out a number of people checking into venues with the mandatory QR code, have been signing in with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. If all the venues used the NSW Health app this wouldn't happen, of course, but the NSW app was rolled out too late for many places. They had already paid up to another company. Which is the next concern, who is using/controlling/monitoring this data that is collected about us every day!

    2. You can go to church, Ruth?! Wow! Here if you go to church they fine the church $2,000.00 and perhaps the people too. I heard from a friend in Manitoba that a church gathered in one place, everyone enclosed in their cars to hear the church service over their radios and the police came and dispersed them. Crazy!

      "Which is the next concern, who is using/controlling/monitoring this data that is collected about us every day!

      Exactly! I know we have to be super careful with this virus to protect the elderly but to be frank, some of the measures are concerning me and the lengths authorities are going to enforce them. We're beginning to have protests here and they are escalating. I know the impact of the virus is bad in other parts of the world but here, I think the measures are much too strict for what we're experiencing. And they don't tell us what is being done to protect the elderly. I'm often reminded of aspects of history that is troubling. But I suppose we must just wait and see what comes out of it and hope for the best.

  12. Your country is doing a lot better than most. Canada is not doing well recently nor the U.S. We get deliveries mostly from groceries & avoid any stores or public indoors etc. When we have gone into public stores (infrequently) we've been wearing masks for the entire year here. There is hope with the vaccines coming etc. but it will take long into 2021. Wish you well there.

    1. You must be in eastern Canada. In the west, we've only had mandated masks since, I think later October??? Some people wore masks in public before that but where I am, I'd say only about 1-2%.


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