“All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.” ― Albert Camus, The Plague
And here we are in Melbourne, living in Lockdown #2, back to confining ourselves at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. Many people are now jobless, many shops have closed indefinitely, some businesses having closed down for good. Traffic has become greatly reduced, people are staying indoors, the City has ground down to an almost complete halt. International flights can no longer land in Melbourne Airport and Melburnians cannot leave the City on the pain of stiff fines. The police are maintaining the quarantine on all major routes out of the city and people are once again afraid of the invisible enemy, COVID-19, a “wicked virus”, in our Premier’s words…
The number of cases to date: Australia has recorded 11,611 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 122 deaths. These figures are from a national dataset of every confirmed case since January 25, when the country’s first four cases were reported. The death of three more coronavirus victims overnight in Victoria now means that more people have died in our state during the second wave of the pandemic than in the first. A total of 38 Victorians have now passed away since the first case in Australia was identified on January 25. Today, Victorian authorities also announced an additional 363 new cases, pushing the state’s total number of cases to 3,898 since the pandemic started. Our Premier is justly distressed and so should every one of us!
What next? Come Thursday this week, all people over 12 years of age will need to wear face masks or other suitable face coverings if they venture out of their homes for the only four legitimate reasons they can do so:
1) To go to work or study, only if they are unable to do those activities at their home;
2) To obtain medical care or provide medical care;
3) To go shopping for essentials, but only locally;
4) To exercise daily under strict social distancing guidelines, and only locally.
Of course some people are self-isolating under quarantine conditions, for example, if they have been tested for COVID-19 and they are awaiting results; if they are positive for COVID-19 and they are symptomless; if they have contacted confirmed cases of COVID-19. Needless to say that hospitalised patients suffering symptoms of coronavirus infection are also quarantined and being given the necessary treatment for their disease. Fortunately, the vast majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 have not needed to be hospitalised. Of 2,930 current or “active” cases, only 135, or 5 per cent are receiving hospital care. This includes 29 patients in ICU (or 1 per cent of current cases).
As the COVID-19 pandemic resurges in our city, there has been considerable discussion in the media about the impact the virus is having on our psychological state, our mental health, our propensity to abnormal behaviour patterns including suicide. While physical distancing is preventing the spread of coronavirus, it has also created multiple problems, including isolation, loneliness, anxiety and in some cases increased tendency for violent or aberrant behaviour. For those who are now jobless or whose business is going under because of the economic downturn, the impact on the individuals involved, their families and careers is significant, and the uncertainty about the future hard to deal with.
Still, many of us have been able to deal with the tough measures of the restrictions and the home isolation has been a catalyst for relationships to be strengthened and reaffirmed, including developing new ways to work together in order to cope with the new status quo. Students have had to deal with novel ways of instruction, including remote learning and technology-assisted education. Many workers are logging onto their workplace from their home computers and there are even reports that productivity has increased while staff are working from home. Thus there is proof of the renewal and importance of reaching out and being socially connected even while physically separated.
We must acknowledge that both Federal and State Governments have put in place measures to try to reduce the negative effects of COVID-19 restrictions. These measures have included significant initiatives to support employment and maintain financial security. I consider myself lucky to be living in a country where there is still enough social conscience in our politics so that governments are doing all they can to support all who need looking after in these dire times.
As far as we as individuals are concerned, what can we do to support others and help our loved ones, our families, our friends our community? Simple, really:
1) Look after yourself – be cautious and prudent. Follow the directives of the experts and law-makers, for they will help you stay safe and healthy.
2) Support the people close to you, first in your household, then your family and friends further afield. Keep in contact – the ways to do this nowadays are numerous and within reach of everyone.
3) Volunteer to do some work for a mutual aid group in your community (for example, go here: https://www.volunteer.com.au/)
4) Support local businesses as much as you can by shopping in stores that are struggling to survive. Small businesses have a much tougher time surviving times of economic crisis.
5) Support the FoodBank if you can (see: https://www.foodbank.org.au/covid-19/?state=vic)
6) Write a letter to a stranger! Contacting your local nursing home or elderly people’s home you can obtain information on residents who may be lacking visitors while their family and friends stay away.
7) If you have a garden and you produce fruit and vegetables, consider sharing your excess produce with nearby friends and neighbours. You may also give them seeds and seedlings that you have in excess.
8) If you can, help students studying at home with some tutoring in your area of expertise (see: https://www.embrace-education.org/volunteer)
9) Give to charities and support groups caring for those in need: Homeless, people experiencing mental health problems, those who live alone.
10) Join an online companionship and entertainment group. You can find many of these catering for people with similar interests (see: https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-03-17/coronavirus-online-support-groups/12060530)
Keep safe, think before you act, be kind, support those around you, be well!