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  • Writer's pictureAisling Salisbury

Maybe It's Something Else

You know Australia, perhaps I have been looking at this the wrong way. I have stated that I have felt as a country you have become very selfish at the selling out of fellow citizens who are stranded overseas. How you applaud the locking out of citizens and shutdowns of domestic and international borders, as too, the closing of state economies for one or two cases. I simply thought it was selfish then it dawned on me, perhaps it isn't selfishness, it might be denial?

The denial that Australia pursued an elimination strategy that no one agreed to. A strategy that has left a generational debt on the country. A strategy that has resulted in so much pain through job losses, suicides and increases in mental health problems. A strategy that prevented you from seeing your friends and family. A strategy that even prevented you from a decent farewell to your loved ones if they had departed this life. A strategy that left Victorians and Melburnians locked in their houses for close to four months. Shall we go on?

Australia suffered a lot of pain in the name of "Elimination" it was a strategy that was never agreed to nor was the narrative from the National Cabinet or the Prime Minister at the height of the COVID pandemic. It's a strategy that you found yourself falling into. The strategy was meant to only be there to "flatten the curve" and prevent the overwhelming of Australian Health Services. With so few cases in the country, you found yourself coming to self congratulate yourselves every day and would go "look at that country they have so many cases and we have none, good job mate" it contributed to the narrative of "if we stay this course we can get back to normal". The dangling of the carrot so to speak.

Very fair stats you have Australia I must say and right now you are somewhat back to normal but are you really? When it comes to this "we are back to normal" and the case numbers rhetoric, well Australia . . .

Before we go anywhere, as Shaun Micallef used to comedically analyse Bill Shorten's "Zingers" about "having everything in it" I'd like to think he would do the same here. You see the lead photo for this story is the PM and the recently retired Finance Minister Mathias Cormann at a footy game. Cormann hails from Belgium but sounded like Arnie. So to stick in an Arnie gif just means it's comedically funny on many levels. Before the Twitter mob go, that's not funny, well that was the point of Shaun Micallef's Zinger analysis on his show . . . duh!

Back to the play.

If Australia is back to normal, with no cases then it surely justifies the course of this path, doesn't it?

You'd think so, but when other countries didn't go down this path and have been back to normal for some time you just have to ask yourself the question.

"Was this right?"

It was right for the time, yes. However, you've stayed the course for so long that it's now isolating you from the rest of the world. The world right now is getting on with life, it's been normal for some time now. Countries learnt to live with the virus and got on with their lives and made it about their personal choice. When cases spiked people choose to take their own precautions because they knew that overwhelmingly if you were to catch COVID it was about isolating yourself, staying hydrated and within a week or so you would've recovered. I have worked with close to 50 people now who have had COVID and they survived and were back on deck after a week. So yes although countries compared to Australia might have cases spiking, they are living with it to the point there could even be a degree of herd immunity developing. As those now that are getting it generally are only sidelined for a week and not requiring hospitalisation unless they have some serious comorbidities. If they do have comorbidities, well the point here is, it's your choice how you wish to protect yourself. The course you took in Australia, the course of isolation, has done nothing besides putting you at risk of not having a degree of herd immunity and also, whether you're for or against it, a slow uptake of the vaccination. Simply because the narrative in Australia is:

"Why should we take it when we don't have the virus?"

Despite American's living with the virus, over 60% of the populous has received the vaccination now. Along with the mentality of learning to live with it America is pretty much back at full strength now. Yesterday at Houston Intercontinental Airport the airport was as busy as a shopping centre at Christmas.

American's are travelling, they are going to sporting events, concerts, restaurants and living their lives as they previously did. They just have a face covering in case they approach a business that requires it for a condition of patronage. The fact is, countries that have learnt to live with the virus are back to normal. There's no threat of an impending lockdown, permission/registration to cross state lines, no QR Codes and any attempt to do so is met with protest. Even during my time in Costa Rica, I got this impression. Yes, people were taking precautions but they were living their lives as normal. My American friends who have gone to Mexico on holiday have reported the same. People are accepting that there is a risk but we just need to get on with it, except Australia, except for a rare few who are starting to see it.

So this is why I think Australia is now in a state of denial. A denial that they have to keep going down this course in the hopes they will eventually be proven right. That the isolation and devastation they suffered throughout 2020 and the generational debt they now have is all justified because they are now back to normal with no virus. It probably explains the discarding of fellow Aussies overseas who can't get home because of passenger caps on flights. The near-zero spaces in Hotel Quarantine as it's "a risky policy". The hatred towards their fellow countrymen who just want to come home and see family and friends. The "importing of the virus" as many commentators (both left and right of the spectrum use) threatens the course Australia took to live without it and remain isolated.

To open up means that case numbers will go up, it means that the pain that these countries went through, as a baptism of fire, is one that Australia hasn't had to do. If it occurs there will be panic and in turn anger towards Governmental agencies. Australia has never had this spike whilst operating normally and as so it means you are behind the eight ball compared to countries that have got on with life and lived with it for a year now.

Even the Prime Minister has now changed course. It could be that industries such as Airlines and Universities putting the screws on him or it could simply be the fact that Australia lost in a Human Rights case at the UN which now sets precedence. One that states the passenger caps actively preventing the right of an Australian Citizen to come home is illegal. Either way, he is right when he says, even if done prematurely, that if Australia opened up it would have to be prepared to have:

“1000 COVID cases a week”

I don't see it being that bad if the border was open with restrictions such as home quarantines, negative tests before/after flights or even allowing vaccinated people through. However, he is right. Opening the border means that the country will have to learn to live with the virus. The virus is not a threat though, but the psyche of Australian's is that it is, it's a psyche that whenever there is a case or two it means panic stations.

Australia you have to get out of this "COVID is the doomsday virus" mentality. You need to get with the programme and learn to live with it, unfortunately timing-wise as you head into winter this isn't really the time to do it. However, what you can start to do is change the narrative. To change it means ending the caps and allowing your own citizens and permanent residents to come/go across the international border freely. Hopefully, this is what the PM is about right now with his recent change of tone. Such as returning to home quarantines and/or similar to policies in other countries such as in the UK or even like the US which is simply test negative before a flight and that's it.

Regrettably, I don't see a cancellation of the hotel quarantine programme or an end to the caps because it will open the floodgates to those that did suffer financial hardships probably taking the Federal Government to court for a recoup of losses. However, to start allowing this change will slowly change the current psyche of Australians. Especially as returnees can tell them quite simply "don't fear this stuff" it's about being sensible, personal choice and taking precautions only when needed. Precautions that don't involve mass shutdowns and devastation to the economy. Then post-winter, you could open up to the rest of the world, permitting the freedom of movement of everyone across Australia. It's not too late to change course Australia, open your eyes and join the rest of us and learn to live with it. Whether it be selfishness or denial, it's time to move on.


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