COVID. 12 months on!


For Australians, COVID first started to change our lives in March 2020. Like most life changing events I remember where I was. At the Gold Coast Caravan Expo and staying in apartment style accommodation. The event was attended by thousands of people in close contact, many of which were in the high risk age category of 70+. This event could have been a ‘hotspot’, but it wasn’t.

In the following weeks and months, we would see lockdowns, quarantines, Australian citizens stranded overseas, we were limited to only leaving home for ‘essential services’, we even had a temporary 150km travel ban, kids were home schooled, working from home became mainstream and cities were basically deserted. We were told not to wear masks, then to wear masks and then to only wear masks in certain regions. Our lifestyle and livelihood was being determined by the Chief Medical Officer.

The Federal Government were on the front foot with financial packages including jobkeeper and jobseeker. Businesses were given assistance and people were offered the opportunity to access their superannuation. During this initial few months most businesses went extremely quiet and others ended up closing their doors temporarily or permanently. There was serious concern for the economy.

We saw the USA, England and other countries struggling (and continuing to do so) with the pandemic. Other countries we have barely heard about. I often wonder about Bali with their reliance on tourism how they must be going.

Hindsight shows that the Australian Federal Government essentially did the right things to get the country through an extremely difficult 12 months. After this 12 month period, only time will tell, but there are certainly positive signs.

We had the Queensland Premier and Chief Medical Officer holding daily press conferences up until the election on October 31 – and then they mysteriously stopped after the landslide election victory. This was the first election I had seen first-hand that was run and won on a fear campaign. This and an inept opposition that offered a lack of alternative policies. Locally, we await our promised hospital, more traffic lights and a long list of pre-election promises. Hindsight says the elections (local and state) should have been postponed. There is no doubt on this. Forcing people to vote in a global pandemic when fear is in play is not right. This was a poor decision.

When you look at the figures alone for our state, you see 6 deaths and 1329 cases. Is that right? Can that be right? Comparably we had 508 suspected suicides from January 1 to August 31 2020, 276 people died on our roads, 55 women died from domestic violence nationally and the big C, again nationally is the big one with estimates of around 50,000 deaths. There is some perspective. However, that perspective comes from the success our state has had against COVID. Compared that to over 800 deaths in Victoria where they have experienced a much more difficult time with lockdowns and so forth. I’m not sure how Premier Dan Andrews still has a job, I can only assume it is a tough job to lose and nobody else wants it.

When you look globally that is when you realise, we as a country have dodged a bullet. Globally there have been over 113m cases and 2.53m deaths. I know at this stage some people will slice and dice those figures and quote the age groups and we have all heard the stories about COVID being the cause of death officially when it may have been a combination of factors and/or a pre-existing condition. The fact is that COVID 19 and the flow on effects from the changes to our lifestyle and livelihood has changed the world. No matter where you sit on the fence it is like nothing most of us have seen. We have been lucky. Extremely lucky. This pandemic had the potential to grind our country to a halt. But it didn’t and it hasn’t. We have got through it, or it appears we have at this stage.

So, it is 12 months on. Where are things at today? Well, there is a vaccination (two coming to Australia). A vaccination that is dividing our country. Anti-vaxxers, people keen to get it, people scared, conspiracy theorists, those that want to know how a vaccination can be developed and tested in 12 months and others that don’t really care and will simply do as they are told.

The vaccination is being rolled out from only a few days before when you will read this. First in the line will be our frontline workers, followed be the elderly and at risk groups, then basically everyone else over 18. Those under 18, we don’t know yet. And you will probably have to get two shots at the Sunshine Coast Hospital. Between when this article is written and when you read it you will be inundated with an advertising blitz promoting the vaccine and how you go about getting it. It has started already. There is so much information about the vaccine it is confusing. Can you still catch COVID? How long does it last? Are there side effects? What is the plan for children? Too many questions and not enough answers at this stage but it should all filter through in the coming weeks.

The good news? 12 months on and there is light at the end of the tunnel. At least we can now be positive. Lockdowns and border closures should be things of the past. Snap decision making from our leaders should also disappear as we now have 12 months of experience dealing with this thing.

The vaccine is voluntary at this stage. It is anticipated between seventy and eighty percent of Australians (excluding children at this stage) will get the vaccine/s. What the future holds for the ‘voluntary’ status is unknown. For instance, overseas travel, schooling, visiting aged care centres and so forth. Further outbreaks will place pressure on this ‘voluntary’ status.

What could we do differently with the wonderful gift of hindsight? The first thing that comes to mind is that it shouldn’t be political. A global pandemic should not be political, and it should certainly not be a political issue and the deciding factor in an election. Just separate the two.

A national cabinet or emergency response unit should have been the leader on this issue and provide direction to the States. Our country is a country and shows us that maybe we don’t need 3 levels of government.

There should have been more compassion for those dying and their loved ones. And certainly not quarantine in high density hotel complexes with part time security guards. This was probably the biggest failure of the 12 months.

I recall one period where we couldn’t travel and then all of a sudden we could and there were thousands of people on the beaches of Bribie Island, a location with one of the oldest average populations in Australia and the highest at risk group of COVID - one day nobody could come there from outside the area and the next day there were thousands. This didn’t feel right, it made me feel sick in the stomach.

We also had the changing rules for churches, weddings, funerals and home gatherings. And of course, the no dancing rules. Visiting aged care facilities to see loved ones was challenging as the sector was struggling even before a global pandemic. All at the same time as the AFL grand final and their associated VIP’s flying into Brisbane, millionaires jumping onboard their boats crossing borders, actors and celebrities getting exemptions and the list goes on. And that is only what we heard about! Goodness knows what else happened that we didn’t hear about.

Who would forget the supermarkets during these times? Toilet paper shortages, the less said about that the better. Meat, bread, milk shortages and empty shelves. This certainly wasn’t what we were used to in Australia.

Do you remember the story about the kid that couldn’t have a party, so his mum drove him around in her car with happy birthday writing all over it? I hope that kid gets a party this year.

What will your memories of COVID be from the last 12 months?

Who is still suffering? Movie theatres, cruise ships, international travel agents, those influenced by business or international trade/tourism, those who lost loved ones and couldn’t say farewell. Entertainers and the arts industry have also struggled. Restaurants, takeaways and cafes have certainly suffered. I’m sure there are more.

One area that has been somewhat neglected is that there is now a housing shortage in many areas. The dynamics of the property market have changed from COVID and the outcome is a shortage of affordable rental properties. When you hear of so many applicants for rental properties you know there is a problem. This is a serious matter and should be right at the top of priorities for our elected leaders. If we don’t already, we will have a housing crisis on our hands. And the solution isn’t just to approve more land development because the timelines are too long to get new accommodation constructed. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency with creative outcomes.

Our economy generally is on the mend with some industries booming. All we can do now is make up our own minds regarding the vaccination/s, get on with our lives, appreciate our loved ones, support those in need, do the right thing and look forward to the future and hope that it is all under control and that we don’t see anything like it again.

They say that time heals wounds, it also gives us the benefit of hindsight and I’m sure that if we had our time again, many things would have been done differently. It is panic stations with a global pandemic, and it isn’t really something you can prepare for. At the end of the day, we were global leaders in terms of the outcome. But at what cost? Only time will tell.

On a final note, at this stage vaccinations are a personal choice and no matter what that choice is people should not be ridiculed or discriminated for that choice. Let us know your thoughts on the last 12 months and the vaccination process by emailing us at stories@islandandsurrounds.com.au

Recent Posts

See All

I first met Bribie Island’s Heinrich van Rensburg, a couple of weeks ago through my dear Dalmatian, Bertie. But let’s get the background to this story sorted out first. It all started a little after B