This time last year everybody in Australia was in lock down panic mode because of covid-19. Shop shelves were empty, even here in Hervey Bay. Toilet paper, in particular, was a premium product, with people buying up big, grabbing multiple packs of twenty-four rolls. Hand sanitiser (made in China) had disappeared, as had the cheap masks Pete bought in Bunnings to protect himself when doing woodworking.
Stores introduced rationing and limited the numbers allowed in the premises. Hand sanitiser was provided to clean hands, shopping baskets, and trolley (cart) handles. The mantra was to wash hands thoroughly and often, social distance when in public, and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.
The Australian Government beat the World Health Organisation in declaring a pandemic and set about doing something about it. Measures were introduced to support people out of work and businesses which had to lay off people – places like gyms, restaurants, pubs, beauty salons – everything not deemed essential.
Overseas travel was out of the question. Our 2020 Europe trip was rescheduled to 2021 and has now been rescheduled to 2022. Interstate travel was out for the time when everyone was urged to stay home. Later, state border restrictions were introduced to limit travel.
Looking back, it was a difficult time, even for us – although being retired and in a country town, we weren’t much affected. No kids, no job, no real financial worries. It was more seeing what was happening to ordinary people trying to get on with life in a world turned inside out. I couldn’t imagine trying to juggle working from home and home-schooling a couple of kids. Or trying to find enough money to pay the bills after being laid off. Or queuing to get into the supermarket, trying to grab the last of the loo rolls.
It’s a year on. Pete and I have booked for our vaccines. The first will happen before the end of March, the second in June. I guess here in Australia the vaccine will afford a certain level of relief from anxiety. After all, we’ve had few cases and deaths in comparison with Europe, the US, and South America. We are still urged to social distance, wash hands, and check in to places for contact tracing but life is pretty much back to normal. The shops are fully stocked and Australian made masks and sanitiser are out there.
The government’s biggest concern now is getting vaccines into Papua New Guinea, both to help that country but also to protect our indigenous population on the Torres Strait islands and far north Queensland.
We’ll be having the astrazeneca vaccine. We know that several European countries have suspended its use but we tend to accept the studies that show no evidence of the vaccine leading to higher levels of blood clots etc. Even if they’re true, the percentage of issues per dose is vanishingly small. There are supply problems in Europe but since the vaccine is being manufactured in Australia, that shouldn’t be a concern.
I think the biggest lesson we’ve learned from the past year is the extent to which we have relied on China as a trading partner. And how stupid that was. Pete and I are doing our small bit to avoid buying Chinese goods whenever possible (sometimes it’s impossible) and it’s great to see that retailers have taken that message on board, too.
But even in adversity, people have a sense of humour. I saved a few of the cartoons that floated around. Here’s just a few.
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