Watching Australia from the Outside
I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who isn’t tired of hearing about COVID. It has killed too many, exacerbated poverty and generally disrupted everything. Although some have undoubtedly suffered more than others, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been shat on – at least a little – by COVID.
I was in Wales looking after my dying mother when it started. After a painful battle with cancer, Mam conveniently popped her clogs hours before our Buffoon in Chief (AKA Boris) announced a UK-wide lockdown. While others bought bog roll and baked sourdough, I planned a tiny funeral and stayed away from family and friends when I needed them most. It was the right thing to do but it was too little too late. Boris and his ilk had dilly-dallied their way into a colossal crisis and we’ve been on the back foot ever since.
A year later, I’m back in lockdown waiting for COVID to calm its farm so I can come home. Like thousands of stranded Aussie residents, I’ve been enviously watching you enjoy something far closer to normality than we could ever hope for. While Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have juggled different strategies to varying levels of success (or lack thereof), Australia has crushed outbreaks and kept deaths impressively low. Every single death is a tragedy, but the countless lives – and livelihoods – saved by decisive action should be celebrated. Although my friends on Aussie soil appreciate that, many also roll their eyes at the extreme measures taken to quash small clusters. Given the history of lockouts and overzealous festival sniffer dogs, it’s understandable that Sydneysiders are cynical of nanny state rules, but as someone living through the savage consequences of inaction, I see these measures as entirely necessary. With even the tiniest hesitation this virus gets wildly out of control, and while snap lockdowns, border closures, travel bans and hotel quarantines have consequences ranging from inconvenient to devastating, trust me when I say that they are better than the alternative.
Of course, it’s easy for me to profess how lucky you are from the other side of the world. We may have it worse but that doesn’t diminish your suffering. You might have low death rates but the logistical, financial and psychological implications of constant upheaval and ever-changing restrictions are just as real. In this global clusterfudge of suffering and anxiety, there is room for both resentful wallowing and a healthy dose of perspective – I for one swing wildly between the two on a daily basis. It’s natural to resent drastic measures but if you do, please do this perpetually jealous stranded resident a solid and try to also enjoy the freedom you do have. The truth is I’m not there and I don’t know how you feel. All I can say from a painfully long distance is that I would give my right arm for a pint with friends and a government with faster reflexes.
With a bit of luck, and billions of vaccines, we could be on the home stretch soon. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future I will be back in Bondi enjoying a cold pint of Kosciuszko and we’ll all be free to come and go as we please. Until then, stay strong and be thankful you don’t have Boris in charge.