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I’ll confess to being swamped by the gloom cloud on Thursday morning after news of the latest lockdown, and taking it as well as a five-year-old would the discovery her party balloon does not react well to a pin.
Dropping into the local Woolies between appointments as Messrs Merlino, Foley and Sutton took to their feet, and finding it as packed as 5pm on a Sunday, when everyone else who pretends the weekend lasts forever finally decides to shop, was truly deflating.
People line up for COVID-19 vaccinations at Melbourne’s Exhibition Building in Carlton. Credit:Justin McManus
People looked a bit agitated as we bumped baskets while hearing others talk on the phone balefully about stuff like, “well, I’ll see you next week my friend, that’s if we’re allowed out”.
In the long queue for the self-checkout, people exchanged glances expressing quiet grief and loss of the great energy that had been rebuilding.
Once again you noted that if Melbourne’s optimism can be gauged inversely to the volume of toilet paper left on shelves it was clear the mood was fast approaching the bottom.
That 22,000 people had the vaccine on Friday fills you with faith that people are willing to do their bit for the greater good.
But two days into the fourth lockdown and reading the news gives me, and I hope us, cause for positivity.
Watching people put hesitancy aside and storm the vaccination centres has been life-affirming (despite the tech glitch). I believe we need to respect people’s genuine worries to get them on board but seeing us get practical, pragmatic and very, very patient is reassuring.
That 22,000 people had the vaccine on Friday fills you with faith that people are willing to do their bit for the greater good. The fact Victorian contact tracers have been able to work so swiftly to identify 15,000 people who are now isolating is also a huge confidence booster.
That sense of contact tracing being overwhelmed that terrified us last year seems to have largely dissipated. Amen to that and salutes to those working feverishly to keep our collective temperature down.
Same goes for the incredible work of all those on the testing front line who have swabbed 56,624 Victorians in a day, setting a daily record on Friday. Anyone who’s had a test can verify the selection process for those people pushing the stick up has served us very well.
It is still extremely worrying that so many people in the disability and aged care communities have not been able to obtain urgently needed vaccinations, and that is an ongoing cause for some fury.
But if a chunk of the discord and disquiet we felt in 2020 was down to fear we were vulnerable because the health system’s ability to respond was faulty or even broken, this time it appears we have reason for at least some calm.
Once again, we will all need to pay close attention to people in our lives who will suffer the most, as the psychologists have noted it is those who may have underlying mental health issues that may relapse, those living alone (though thank God for the bubble from the start) and elders who will dearly miss contact with family to whom even a week will feel like a serious challenge.
I feel for kids, too, who deserve their shot at the old cliche about this being among your most carefree, golden days and who have had that sense of endless possibility, one of the best things about childhood, take another hit. But never underestimate the resilience of kids. Adults can learn from it.
Perhaps the group for whom we can feel the most broken-hearted, apart from the patient who was in intensive care, is those small business owners who were already hanging by a thread.
It was so saddening to note the casualties in the wash-up to 2020, your favourite local felafel joint since the 1990s, the wholefoods place with the lovely staff.
The best thing we can do, as my colleague Karl Quinn noted in his “Lockdown Diary Day 2″ is to spend what we can spare supporting local providers.
Five days is not an eternity; the flocks of black cockatoos that crazy-flew into view this time last year are back as mad as ever, and all the five new cases were linked to other known cases, which suggests we are keeping up with this bugger of a virus.
There is even some very friendly weekend activities-ideas exchange going on in the comments stream of The Age coronavirus live blog as people share plans for what they’ll cook or do in the garden. Their warm tone is an excellent shot in the arm.
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