We lost our freedoms quickly and brutally when COVID-19 cases began to soar in Australia. We have spent much of the past month or so stuck inside our homes. Some of us have lost our incomes. Others are now struggling to earn one while also home-schooling children. It is understandable that we are getting restless, especially as the good news grows and outside, the sun is shining.
In Melbourne, growing numbers of people have been flocking to parks and the St Kilda promenade as the falling number of new cases in Australia fuels optimism – and possible complacency. In Sydney on Friday, Randwick Council had to close down Coogee and Maroubra beaches just five days after reopening them for exercise, because too many beachgoers were more interested in “having a splash” than having a workout.
The reason the numbers are falling is because we have pulled together as a nation. We have stayed home. Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said on Friday that with the exception of north-west Tasmania, the coronavirus reproduction rate in Australia had been kept at less than one – each person with SARS-CoV-2 infects no more than one other person. It’s an achievement that we all own. And we earned it through unity.
But our unity is being tested. On the home front, those who have religiously followed social distancing rules are getting upset at neighbours who they feel are not as dedicated to the cause. School closures, too, are an emotive flashpoint, a situation not helped by diverging views between governments, despite mounting evidence suggesting such closures do little to stop the spread of coronavirus. The NSW government is now keen to get children back into classrooms but was publicly butting heads this week with the teachers union about how to do it and many teachers themselves, frightened for their health, are unwilling to return. Parents are flaring up at each other on social media over whether remote learning should continue.