PERSONAL REFLECTIONS POST-COVID LOCKDOWN

With Victoria at zero cases for over 30 days now, Australia with zero cases excluding international travel and an odd outbreak, being out of lockdown and free to travel outside Melbourne, we drove to NSW to experience a change of scenery…and to put money into the bushfire-hit towns.  Before we left, I reflected on what I had gained from the (8 month) covid period, what I had missed and how I wanted to live my life as a result of this traumatic period.

Covid Positives

8 months sounds long…but WW2 lasted 6 years…and that followed the Depression, which didn’t really end till the war arrived some 10 years later.  We’ve had it easy.  And, with a large house, our own garden, beautiful suburbs, family close by, good technology, good health, lots of friends and interests, we had it much easier than most.  Also, attacking life, being positive, helps to see that there were many positives from this period, for me at least.  They include:

  1. Improving My Tech Use and Using It.

Spotify, Netflix, Stan, iView, Facetime, Zoom, apps, Google and YouTube have made so many possibilities available.  I now use Spotify for my morning exercise routine and  Netflix, Stan and iView for streaming series.  Not radical, but a big change for my life.  Facetime, Zoom, Whatsapp and Google Meet have enabled friend and organisation conversations more than before, with Facetime by far the best for me and Zoom great for multi-member conversations.

I’m not a big app user, but Trickster for bridge with friends and croquis café for life drawing have offered new opportunities for enjoying these activities.

Overall, these elements of technology, plus my willingness to engage in new options, have made significant positive changes to the patterns of my life, and I want them to continue.

2. A Slower Pace of Life

Our lives were ‘busy’.  We liked it that way.  But covid slowed us down, showed us what we valued and what we didn’t. 

Observing nature in our home, in our area, has provided much greater joy than previously (we loved it, but didn’t have the time to appreciate it).  Seeing each day, week, month, season unfold, observing and enjoying the changes, has given us as much joy as if we were travelling to new and different landscapes.

Taking time to cook and prepare food instead of just rushing a meal to get to another event or activity has meant we’ve enjoyed food even more than if we were eating out.  We haven’t had the people to converse with over meals, but we’ve enjoyed reflecting ourselves on the flows of the days and weeks.

Walking – critical for daily exercise – enabled us to enjoy others’ local gardens and parks.  Cycling – which I took up again last year for the Great Vic Bike Ride – has become a regular weekly activity.  It provides a different experience from walking, but you still appreciate the small details.  Who’d have thought I’d be a bike rider at 70…

FOMO’s departure is also positive.  In fact, so few people are doing anything interesting or different, that the reverse is true – FONH.  Fear of Nothing Happening.  Mostly conversations have been around covid, covid and covid.  Enough.  The climate emergency is more important.

3. Buying Less

Never a great shopper, I haven’t missed the lack of retail.  In fact, I’ve enjoyed it!  I don’t even miss the coffees that seem so critical to everyone else’s life.  I don’t want much retail to return…except Bunnings, Gazman and a few others.

Covid Negatives

  1. No Travel to Different Landscapes

Nice though it has been to stay at home, I have missed travel.  The travel I like is to walks and views in landscapes, not to cities or man-made building.  We jumped in June when we opened up prematurely and had 2 lovely weeks in the country.  We have returned from a similar week at NSW beaches.  I can handle being limited to travel within Australia.  I don’t ‘need’ to travel internationally any more (I’ve been lucky already).  But I do feel a ‘need’ to travel somewhere to see and experience different landscapes.

2, No Experience of Live Sport

I’ve enjoyed watching lots of live sport on TV, especially on our new large TV.  But I do miss going to games – basketball, football, tennis, athletics, golf and more.  There’s something different about being there.

3. No Brainwork

Strictly, this is an age issue, not a covid issue.  But the lack of organisation operations, the lack of focus on virtually any social or political issue unrelated to covid has been a real downer for me.  I can’t just sit and enjoy life, friends and family.  To me, there’s much more to life than acceptance and bread and circuses.  I need brainwork.

4. No Arts Experiences

Pre-covid, we had a full life of arts experiences – movies, theatres, music, writing, festivals, galleries and more.  Most arts organisations seemed either reactive or lacking the skills to provide online offerings.  Exceptions were the UK’s National Theatre Live, an Australian comedy stream and odd other events, notably (for me) Sydney Dance Company.  I’ve had mixed feelings about this.  I haven’t missed many ‘average’ events, but I’ve really missed those events which led to challenging and thoughtful discussions about the event – the performance, the acting, the playing, the writing, the idea, the innovation.  In a slower life, I still crave some art, but I don’t want as much as before.  I plan to choose more carefully…but that’s difficult when you have to buy before review or for a one-off event.  I know what I missed.  I know who reached out to me.  I’ll choose with more care.

Now…

I plan a slower life, carrying forward the new positive activities and skills.  This requires dropping other events.  I’ve found myself carefully thinking now, ‘Do I want to do this and why?’  The crunch will come when I have to say ‘No’ to ‘normal’ pre-covid activities or events.  We’ll see!

COVID CONTRADICTIONS IN MELBOURNE: I’M ANGRY

I’m angry and frustrated.  After 8 weeks of hard lockdown, which followed 4 weeks of significant lockdown, finally – yesterday – restrictions were ‘eased’.  But so limited are the changes, and so full of contradictions, with another 3 weeks before anything else happens, it’s very depressing.

The ‘Easing’ of Restrictions

So, with average case numbers down to around 15 a day, a 14 day average of 25 (against a target range of 30-50), very few community transmissions, here are the generous ‘easing’s:

  • No curfew (no justification was ever given for this anyway)
  • Up to 5 people from 2 families can gather outside  (previously 3)
  • Childcare to resume without permits (previously only certain ‘essential’ people)
  • Personal training for groups of up to two participants
  • Garden maintenance services
  • Outdoor swimming in pools
  • In-home childminding allowed for all
  • Dentists can resume non-urgent work (previously urgent only)

All within an unchanged 5km distance from home, and an unchanged 2 hours outside for exercise.

The Current Situation

Almost all daily cases are related to existing clusters.  Most of these cases relate to aged care homes and/or health workers.  We are rarely given the specific information of how many unknown community transmission cases occur, even though this is the main target for future easing.  Yesterday, there was only 1 – yes, only 1 – community transmission case.  There were apparently 31 over the last 14 days (the next target is less than 5 for a 14-day period…).

Most postcodes have zero cases.  Only a few council areas have more than 10 active cases.  In any country or area of the world (except possibly New Zealand, Taiwan and a few others with small populations), Melbourne would be a shining star.  Yet we continue to be treated as if we are criminals, with heavy fines for violations of the rules.

Contradictions in the ‘Easing’

  • If swimming is allowed, why not outdoor sports, such as tennis, golf and cricket (where players are rarely near each other at all)?
  • Why can’t we drive to larger outdoor parks and gardens for exercise?
  • If physios and dentists are operating, why isn’t hairdressing allowed?
  • Why can’t large, well ventilated retail stores, such as Bunnings, Target, Kmart which have good covid track records, open?
  • If builders and maintenance workers can go, why can’t people travel to holiday houses for maintenance (the fridge hasn’t been opened for 6 months…), if they observed the same rules there?
  • Why can’t cyclists cycle further than 5 kms from home (that’s about 15 mins or less for a reasonable cyclist)?

I’m sure there are lots more contradictions you can think of.  There have been lots with every set of new rules, which seem to change every few days.

What is the Government’s Aim Now?

In the first wave, the aim was to ensure the hospital system wasn’t overwhelmed, though this was rarely made explicit.  In the second wave, due to slow decisionmaking, covid almost got away from us.  Fear that this might happen again seems to be driving the current extremely cautious policy ‘easings’, though no one seems too sure what the ‘policy’ is. 

Implicitly it seems the real policy aim is to reach zero cases, as the rest of Australia has reached (more or less, excluding international travel quarantine cases).  If that is the aim, why not state it?  Why state ‘less than 5 community transmissions in a 14 day period’ (and why that level (scientifically speaking)?

Why Am I Angry?

I’m angry for lots of reasons.  Angry, because the government was too slow in getting control of the second wave.  Angry more, because it refused to admit it did anything wrong, and seemed unwilling to learn from its mistakes.  Angry, because the hard lockdown rules have been left in place too long (decisonmaking too slow again).  Angry, because for all the stated stakeholder consultations, the government doesn’t seem to be listening to those who are most affected.  And angry because, when the ‘easing’ has finally arrived, it’s so minimal for most people, it again fails to offer the hope and motivation that could so easily have been offered (decisionmaking too slow yet again!).

Hopefully, we the people will save ourselves.  We’ll act better and get better results and eventually force ‘our’ government to reward us.  But for now, it’s back to Netflix, Zoom and gardening.