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What a Difference a Month Makes

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on May 8, 2020 in Other

Confronting scenes outside Bondi Junction Centrelink office. Photo: Miles Long

It is hard to believe that only a month ago, life in the Eastern Suburbs was pretty much as normal. The weather in early March was lovely, with temperatures well into the twenties and a good mix of sunny days and some decent rain. Bans had been put in place to stop non-citizen visitors from a few countries, but otherwise nothing much had changed.
In early March, with the bushfires only weeks past, many in the Eastern Beaches began making plans to contribute, as requested, to the economies of small towns. Easter down the coast was looking good.
Then, on March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a global pandemic and many Australian organisations began preparing to work remotely. On March 13 there were only 92 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New South Wales when the government announced that indoor gatherings would be limited to 100 people and outdoor events to less than 500. Many wondered if such restrictions were really necessary.
Looking back on this period of history, personal experiences and memories will of course differ. For some, it will be a period of gut-wrenching sadness and for many others, a time of economic, social and psychological hardship. For our health workers, I can only imagine the mix of emotions and sheer physical exhaustion that thoughts of this time will arouse. For the young and the old, the isolation of being at home away from loved ones and friends must be very sad and scary.
Many people will also come through this time with some lovely memories of strangers doing kind deeds, of baking and gardening and family time together. A resetting of our busy clocks, a reminder of what is important and hard evidence that investment in health and education should be put ahead of unnecessary expenditure on things like new stadiums. How much better placed would we have been to deal with this crisis if government had committed to improving nurse-patient ratios a year ago?
Although our personal experiences of COVID-19 will differ, as residents of the beautiful Eastern Suburbs there are two aspects of our lives that I know we will greatly miss. The first of course must be the closure of our beaches, which was made necessary by too many people congregating in close proximity, but whether solitary swimming and surfing might somehow be facilitated certainly requires further consideration.
The second is the decision by the two dominant winter sports in Australia, the NRL and AFL, to suspend their seasons. This has left many people devastated. Watching and attending sporting events, barracking for our teams, wearing the colours and meeting up with friends is a core part of life in the local area and a source of happiness. Our loss of amenity associated with going to the beach, having a swim or a surf, watching or playing our sports, going to a restaurant, meeting up with friends and so on, pales into insignificance when considered in the context of the loss of life and of livelihoods.
Every day I see many acts of kindness, community and of sharing. If you would like information about volunteering, perhaps phoning senior citizens to ask if they need help, or if you want my assistance, please phone my office. You can also sign up to my regular COVID-19 updates. I wish you a safe and healthy month, hopefully with a few lovely experiences.