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The Covid Diaries #11 – Same same but different

As of last night, Melbourne is going back into lockdown, now for the fourth time. But a lot has happened since I last wrote in this series in October 2020, so let’s recap.

Multiple vaccines are available and are being rolled out worldwide, with varying degrees of success. Donald Trump lost the US presidential election. Melbourne came out of lockdown, went briefly back in, but has had 2021 in a relatively normal state. COVID complacency has well and truly set in.

Right. Caught up? Here’s where we’re up to.

Fishbowl Australia has sprung another leak and over the last week there have been increasing numbers of cases (still on only low double digits per day) and a truly extraordinary list of possible exposure sites. We are now all back in our homes to try to stop the spread and let the contact tracers do their work.

You would be right in thinking that this sounds very much like what happened this time last year. The difference is that back then we had a seriously worried population and now it seems to me that we are extremely complacent. We entered this lockdown with a great big sigh, as if somehow we were being personally slighted. Mask mandates are frequently being ignored. For goodness sake, one of the cover stories on The Age website is about how five-year olds are getting their birthday parties cancelled. Is it possible to be more entitled?

Australia as a nation has a grand tradition of being gifted the most extraordinary advantages, but then coming to believe that they are somehow ours by right or that we earned them. Our low rates of infection very much fall into this basket – we somehow believe that we are better, more organised, more prepare, or otherwise just superior to basically everyone else.

Sorry. We’re not. We’re just lucky.

I have a sneaking worry that this outbreak may be the one that ends our winning streak. It seems to be spreading very quickly, and even with lockdown underway, it may be travelling too fast to keep under control. I have nothing to back this other than my own intuition, but I am concerned that the combination of a new variant, general complacency, and a wide range of exposure sites throughout the state may be our undoing.

In the long run vaccines are our only solution. And in our entitled Australian way, we’re experiencing high rates of vaccine hesitancy, as if a one-in-a-million blood clot is in any way comparable to the 2-3% fatality rate from covid. The government’s general incompetence in getting vaccines into arms is also a major factor, as is the news coverage of the bullshit political bickering over who did what to whom.

At this stage of the game we shouldn’t be messing around with appointments and prioritising people based on occupation. We should have a hundred sites around the state with millions of doses of vaccine and thousands of vaccinators lined up and ready to slot people. We don’t.

But this is Australia. She’ll be right, mate.

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