How Australia and NZ are doing it differently from the USA
I guess it's hard not to talk about coronavirus during the global shutdown and I've been avoiding it, but it's interesting to point out what is happening in different countries and how each are responding. My observation lately, is how this side of the world is getting it right and how other countries just seem to be struggling when it seems so plainly simple to many here in Australia. The protests that happening in the United States just astound me, why when you have had thousands upon thousands of deaths are you wanting to lift isolation and strict rules put in place to protect each other? I was watching the breaking news on TV (how can you even avoid it now) when the mayor of New York announced how many deaths they had that week alone. It was absolutely shocking to see the empty streets of New York and Paris as well as other major cultural landmark cities around the world (including Mumbai!).
Although shocking, I thought it was for the best right? Herd immunity is not possible so it makes sense to just isolate right? Well wrong, I wake up to news of protests in my home state of Michigan and beaches opening up in South Carolina. Here is where the COVID-19 experience differs for those in NZ & Australia versus the USA and I think it really comes down to culture, leadership and logic. There is no harmony and sense of helping each other out at home with complete disregard of others that is so palpable here it makes you want to cry like watching a dodo clip on Facebook or TikTok. My experience, I believe, would have been completely different from my experience back home if my role was reversed with my family.
Shortly before strict social distancing rules were placed and borders were closing, I had just returned from a trip in NZ with my family and was happy to be back home in my western Melbourne home, somewhat aware of COVID-19. I definitely had taken precautions by wearing a n95 mask on the plane and in the airport since I had been warned of the danger by my physician father. This little heads up was helpful in February, but it swiftly changed in 1.5 weeks of being home. People started dying, there were reports of massive deaths in Italy and South Korea with the virus spreading beyond the Chinese border and into Europe. We had a brief thought of returning to NZ but thought, no we will be ok, life hadn't changed too much for us here in Melbourne. We also may have gotten in contact with those who had COVID-19 and we would have gone home to high risk family members. Besides our home right now is in Melbourne so we thought, what the heck it won't last long and its not that serious. Considering MERS and SARS hadn't really hit us when it was an epidemic.
That was until the term social distancing became the normal phrase and there were 24/7 COVID-19 reports that gave rise to major panic. The first hint that it had become real was when there was no more toilet paper left in the stores and that included Costco. At the time it made me laugh, but it soon sank in that there was a seriousness of the situation. My husband and I were even contemplating on what to do if did eventually run out of toilet paper and there was no other option (a conversation for another time). Then I got sick, I had a runny nose and a bit of a fever with standard sore muscles with some wheezing from my asthma. I made an appointment but I was handled with care and did not mix with the practice general population in the waiting room. I was then sent to get a COVID-19 test which scared the bejeezus out of me. For me, I didn't feel extremely sick just a slight cold that later turned out to be bronchitis and I never felt so grateful to have it (lol). Despite standing in line with a bunch of potential COVID-19 carrier's without masks that were way to close for comfort a negative result the outcome was a 14-day self-isolation order in case symptoms became worse and I did develop the virus.
Shortly after this painstaking experience, I entered into self-isolation and a world revolving around hand sanitiser, decluttering and cleaning house and making sure I could lick the floor if I wanted to. During this brief panic week of my life in late early March, came Level 1 restrictions that saw a lot of stupid people coughing on police officers or others that pissed them off, to severe social distancing rules. Posts were popping up of marked spots at check out lines and trolleys being used as social distancing polls.
Then COVID-19 became and epidemic....and then a pandemic resulting in Level 2 restrictions, which closed down non-essential businesses but yet to close down cafe's and that was the beginning of deep dive stock prices, oil prices and currency. Level 3 was soon after put in place after the Ruby Princess debacle which saw the shutting of borders, the restriction and the subsequent ban on international and domestic air travel to the complete shut down of hospitality, casino's, entertainment areas, museums, galleries (including my own) and then gyms & cinemas. This resulted in a mass loss of jobs and the increase of unemployment and major uncertainty for our socioeconomic health here in Australia.
Although this paints a pretty bleak picture, we are still able to roam with our partners while practising and adhering to social distancing rules. We are still able to drive around without checkpoints within your state, exercise and take your dog out and have the choice to shop where we want for groceries. Despite there being a huge drop in traffic on the M80 and longer lines at the grocery store or having to wear gloves and masks when exiting the house and drowning your body in sanitiser when you're home, life seems awfully freeing. We have listened to our leaders (albeit a select few who have been named and shamed while receiving a fine lol) and practised social distancing, self-isolation and shut down practices that keep each other safe. By doing so our death toll is under 100 while the USA is struggling. NZ went into complete lockdown and has resulted in only 13 deaths. Despite the restrictions we are still social, supportive and dropping off food and essentials to those in isolation or who sorely need it. We are attempting to beat the curve and know that by practising what has been put into place saves lives. We are in it for the long haul and will try to help each other out as much as we can. The spirit of Australia & those in NZ is truly incredible and inspiring.
Meanwhile in the states, my sister is on unemployment with her fiancee in self-isolation and no income and very little social interaction as they are apart from each other. Church meetings that were a large part of my younger sisters social calendar is no longer there and they are essentially on lockdown at home with gloves and a mask mandatory for picking up a five dollar pizza with hundreds dying daily. Mass protests are happening on Lansing streets and no help for the minority population who are the hardest hit by the coronavirus affect.
Im seeing posts on FB where organisations are dropping off food parcels to my friends who are in Isolation and others encouraging time at home to save lives. I know life and situations can be more complicated than not having an income, there are dangers at home to consider but thankfully our government has thought of that as well. Frontline domestic workers have been called into action to help those who are struggling because of abuse in the home or otherwise. This is an incredible scramble to help those in need during a pandemic that has been made more acute than if we did not have a pandemic.
While it is inspiring here in our little pocket of the world and I know there will be a celebration when things start returning to social normality, it is sad to see the same cannot be said for those in the USA. The leadership is not encouraging and awfully confusing, while ours is clear and concise and listens to the experts with the citizens in mind. Economic solutions have been put in place to help us in a time of need and prepare us for an economic boost when the time comes. I cannot fault the actions taken by the Morrison leadership and the premiers of our respective states. The cooperation between state and federal leadership cannot be put at fault and in comparison to the shit show happening over in the United States, Australia isn't doing too shabby. We still have the freedom to exercise and walk around and do our essential business without question as long as we are sensible right? Why can't this be a strategy that the USA take on? The freedom of speech is a right that shouldn't be practiced in order to selfishly get some air, remember it saves lives. Be responsible American citizens, for what you are going through now and your response to it. Look at countries who have worked hard to flatten the curve and cooperate with each other because it is only the beginning.
The conclusion then is, despite being slow at the running block, Australia took decisive social and economic action that buys us time and freedom. NZ has incredible leadership that acted in order to save lives in a manner that would keep everyone at home sane without panic. Citizens abide by the rules that enable freedoms currently not available to many throughout the world and as a result we are flattening the curve unlike many others. We take care of our elderly and the most vulnerable and scramble to care for those in danger and in need while evaluating the situation to look to what the future will look like and how to live in it. Encouragement through social media and practising social distancing practices has bonded neighbours and strangers for one ultimate goal: to save lives. Mental health is just as much as a priority as economic troubles are with frontline workers not the only ones being hailed as heroes. There is a different approach to change that cannot be seen in the US and I worry for those back home. Take the advice of Australians, relax , be compassionate, look to the future with hope and stay at home :p