Dodging COVID Bullets


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Oceania » Australia » Northern Territory » Darwin » Mindil Beach
July 15th 2021
Published: September 25th 2021
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We wake up in a cold sweat and check the local COVID exposure site list yet again. We also found ourselves checking it nervously about every ten minutes as we sat in front of the TV last night. We're supposed to be flying out to Darwin this morning, but if we've been to any of the listed sites while they were active that'll quickly get swapped for the not quite so attractive alternative of being imprisoned at home in the dark and cold of mid-winter Melbourne for the next two weeks; or longer. All was looking good here in Victoria until a few days ago when cases suddenly started appearing again, and then climbing steadily. The first case was imported by some rogue furniture removalists from COVID-ravaged Sydney. They apparently thought it would be a good idea to deliver some furniture to a Melbourne apartment block while they were infected, including climbing unmasked into a crowded lift with some of the other residents. Most Victorians now want those particular gentlemen castrated, or tarred and feathered, or hung in public; my personal preference would be all three, in slow and hopefully painful succession.

We're planning to go to the great state of Western Australia later in our trip. That state's fief, a gent by the name of Mark McGowan (otherwise known as "State Daddy") is renowned for slamming its borders shut at the slightest hint of any COVID risk. He then keeps them shut to any infidels until their state's been declared COVID free for at least two weeks. We figured there was less risk of cases in the sparsely populated Northern Territory than here in Victoria, so we brought our trip forward by a few days to make sure that we will have been in the Territory for at least two weeks before trying to get into WA. This has proven to be a good decision; State Daddy closed his borders to Victorians last night. As we awaken the Territory border is still open to us Vics, but we wonder for how long. We feel like we've been dodging bullets for a while now. I fell backwards out of the back of a delivery truck onto a slab of concrete last week. That would have been OK, but a millisecond later the steel-framed table I'd been trying to unload also fell out, and landed on my face. That was less OK. I thought I must have broken something, or at least rattled my brain, and that might well have been goodbye holiday. Fortunately the doctor at the hospital just glued my face back together, gave me a tetanus jab, and waved me on my way.

We last drove to an airport nearly two years ago, and it feels strange to be doing so again now after so long. It's been so long that I've forgotten the combinations to the locks on our suitcases. I hope I can remember them before the next time we need to change our undies. We overhear the people sitting behind us at the gate lounge discussing what might happen if the border closes while we're in the air. Most of them seem to think that the plane will do a U-turn and bring us back to Melbourne.

The airline seems to have its safety briefing well tuned to COVID times. We're told we have to wear masks throughout the fight, and can only take them off for two reasons. It seems we're allowed to lower them for a few milliseconds while we're eating, which seems reasonable. Good to know however that we're also allowed to take them off to suck in oxygen from other masks, the type that drop down from the ceiling if the plane’s about to crash. I think we've become a tad overly COVID conscious. It sounds and feels as if just about everyone around us has got either a sniffle or a cough, and most of them look to be wearing their masks more as necklaces than face coverings.

We land. It feels like we're in Darwin; Melbourne's not this hot. ... and we successfully navigate the Territory's COVID entry permit system. Yay!! We arrive at our apartment to the news that the Territory will be closing its border to us Victorians from 5pm today, and that Melburnians will be going into yet another lockdown from midnight tonight. It seems that we've made it here by the skin of our teeth. But we're not quite out of the woods yet. If anywhere we'd been to while we were still in Victoria pops up as an exposure site then we'll still get locked up, only it will be here instead..... I'm not sure how much longer we can keep dodging bullets. One of last weekend's exposure sites was a whole section of the members stand at the MCG. My beloved football team was playing in that match and I only decided not to go to it at the very last minute. If I had gone I would have sat right in the middle of exactly that section. While we're now feeling extremely lucky, we’re also starting to feel guilty - we’re here and all our family and friends back home are now in lockdown. Hopefully the guilt will start to fade after a few days in the sun.

We're feeling a bit brain dead. We go for a quick drive along nearby Fannie Bay to watch one of its famously spectacular sunsets. It doesn't disappoint.

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25th September 2021

Glad you got away by the skin of your teeth...
we see on the news that Australia is taking draconian measures to defeat Covid.
27th September 2021

Aussie approach to COVID
Thanks for this Bob. I'm very interested that our approach is seen as draconian, at least by some news organisations. I'm not sure what to think anymore!! We had very very few cases initially (2020), and even fewer deaths relative to the rest of the world, so the objective here seemed to be to completely eliminate the virus. Lockdowns seemed to work to achieve this, so people were generally content to accept the measures that were imposed. This all changed with the delta variant (2021), and the authorities only seem to have come to the realisation in the past couple of months that elimination of that is virtually impossible, even with the harshest measures. The approach now seems to be to try to reduce the numbers of cases to avoid overloading the health system, whilst waiting for a substantial proportion of the population to get vaccinated. We were initially very slow on the vaccination uptake relative to the rest of the world, and I think this was at least partly due to us having so few cases, so a sense of complacency. Even now, uptake is very low in the states that haven't had many cases (WA and Qld - they haven't had more than a handful of cases for months, and their vaccination rates are way behind Victoria and NSW, both of which have had lots of cases). The other thing that really stands out is how differently the different states have approached all this. We here in Victoria have adopted some of the strictest measures - including curfews!! I think this is because our government considers the advice from its health officials above all other considerations, and there is of course no incentive for the health officials to recommend anything other than very strict measures. WA is also very strict - they've virtually become a hermit state - closing their borders to everyone else. NSW by contrast is starting to lift restrictions quite a bit compared to Victoria despite having more cases, and they seem to be at least adopting some balance between blindly following the health advice, and consideration of economic and social issues. I think the public here in Victoria is now starting to get very weary of our government's approach (Melbourne's recently taken over the title of the world's most locked down city!). Most people I talk to are now thinking that keeping kids out of school, imposing curfews, keeping a lot of businesses closed (and therefore rendering people unemployed) and denying young people a substantial part of their youth is a disproportionate price to pay for only a very few deaths. The whole country is theoretically supposed to open up again when 80% of us are vaccinated - currently projected to be in early November. WA and Qld are however now starting to make noises about keeping their borders closed even after this milestone is reached. No one I've spoken to seems to think that makes any sense!! I thought we were supposed to be a single country, but the experiences of the pandemic make it clear that this isn't the case at all!! Hope that puts it all into a bit of context!!
28th September 2021

What a mess
I hope you continue to have good luck. Australians have been locked up tight for too long. I do hope some fines or something are imposed on those furniture movers. What the heck were they thinking? Have they heard of COVID? Yikes!
29th September 2021

COVID mess
Thx for this. In the end, I think all they were able to get them for was not wearing masks, which only attracted a small fine. It seems they did actually have permits to come here, but subject to a lot of very strict conditions. They apparently weren't very cooperative with the police, which it seems made it a lot more difficult to charge them with more serious offences. Their names have never been revealed (for some obscure legal reason), which may well have saved them from getting lynched! Keep enjoying Spain!!

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