Melbourne is back in Lockdown again… for the 4th time. It is hard to describe the mental exhaustion and overall feeling of defeat that is around. Not because of the actual pandemic, though it is certainly a symptom. But because this is not the first time we have felt the semblance of normal life, only to have it snatched away by the incompetence of our government. 

I’m not normally a political person, but I come from a long line of small business owners and have grown up surrounded by family businesses. So I have a good understanding of how little it takes for a small business (and even medium-large ones) to topple over.

Australia has, for good or bad, been very lucky that as an island nation been able to close our borders to the rest of the world. What has not worked for us, is that each state has its own governments choosing rules based on politics and not the good of the people.

It also doesn’t help that there is a very apparent lack of respect for the Prime Minister, which is shown by the fact that he can’t bring all the States and Territories together with a cohesive, national plan.

Yes we have kept the worst of the pandemic at bay, but at what cost?

Australia is now the only country that has completely banned its own people from free travel. I don’t mean tourism travel (though yes that is definitely still banned), but people stuck overseas unable to return home. There have been arguments said that those people should have come back straight away. However, our government waited until the last minute, with vague instructions, before committing to “come home now”.

What that meant in reality was various countries opening/closing borders with little notice, permits suddenly being required (even if you were mid-air when the requirement came through), people need to resign from jobs, break leases, pack and send their belongings to Australia and so on… it was never a simple matter of just jumping on a plane within hours of the announcement, for many it took several weeks just to get to a point that they could return (most jobs and leases require at least a month notice), and by that time our Government had already put in place limits on the number of Australians who could arrive in Australia at any given day and week. 

I have witnessed family friends be forced to shut their businesses down, shattered financially and emotionally by the ongoing toss and turn of Governmental policy. Watched grown adults cry as they close the doors on businesses that either they or their parents established, because the financial support from the government was too little, too late.

Witnessed the struggle to find employees, because why should people work when they earned more to sit at home (the so-called “Job Seeker” allowance established during the start of the pandemic was more then most earned actually working), which meant they couldn’t operate at full capacity as they literally could not find anyone to work. Even now it is a struggle to find staff willing and able to work.

I will admit that we got a bit too relaxed over the past month, the freedom of being able to go to a dance party or event was too much for even me to avoid. But this latest lockdown is completely the Government’s fault. State and Federal government operating under two different rules, to explain a bit better we have an aged care system in Victoria split into 2. Public which is run by the State government, and Private which is run by Federal.

Last year during the 2nd lockdown it was found that the reason the virus was travelling around was because workers in aged care and hospitals, were working across different sites, different quarantine hotels and even had additional side jobs (uber drivers for example). Without realising they were positive, they were carrying the virus across their various jobs and then to their homes.

Both Governments last year banned workers in aged-care and hospitals from working across multiple sites, and paid an additional allowance on top of the wages to prevent that from happening. What we have only found out in the past few days is that the Federal Government reversed that decision in November, very quietly allowing workers in private aged care facilities to again be allowed to work across multiple sites.

Which brings us to this week – a worker contracted the virus at one private aged care centre and shared to their other job site, and also to their families. 

Now Victoria is in lockdown with minimal financial support (none at all for casual workers) and the two governments are slinging pot shots at each other trying to deflect blame.

Meanwhile we are stuck at home, only allowed to leave for 5 reasons (one of which is to get the vaccines – but only if you are 40+ years old) with no end in sight. 

I do love my own space, and I have a lot I can do to take advantage of being at home 24/7 for a week, but seeing families struggle, businesses shut permanently and mental health problems sky rocket is not worth being lockdown for.

We need to learn to live with the virus, it is clearly not going away anytime soon. Protect the most vulnerable and allow people freedom of choice. We are supposed to be living in a democracy, though it seems our government conveniently forgets that sometimes. 

To be clear, I am not saying that we should let people die indiscriminately, but we are human and will die one way or another. The timing of it is very rarely our choice.

Back in high school I did two years of philosophy, enough to teach me how to see things from different angles. No one is right or wrong on this, and for the most part, governments are doing their best in an unprecedented (I hate this word btw) situation.

In the past pandemics were much easier to handle, people actually stayed at home and followed instructions. Why? Because they knew there was no other option. No help. Good or bad, social media and the internet have given us a wealth of information, unfortunately a lot of it false and inflammatory, but still information, that anyone with an internet connection can access.

I fully believe in freedom of choice, and that when it comes to an individual – it is their body, their choice. As long as you do no harm to others, go nuts.

And this is the fine line, Governments are telling us to stay home, suffer mentally, emotionally and financially. Which makes sense to protect the weakest of society. Logically the strong (majority) should morally act in the benefit of all of society and protect the weak. 

But when governments prevent their citizens from having the freedom to make decisions about their own health and well being, it becomes a very very grey area. By preventing people from living their lives because there is a strong change they will catch Covid (and thereby spread it further), we have also prevented and reduced, the normal cycle of life and death. There needs to be checks and balances in everything, and keeping people locked up just drags out that process. Not necessarily for the better.

How many people have missed out on vital medical appointments because medical offices refused to take appointments unless they had proof of serious illness? How many have missed early warning signs of fatal illnesses because they have not been in situations where symptoms might become noticeable? What about the cost of mental illness, depression?

As someone who is naturally introverted, who lives alone and whose circle of close friends is very small, it took me longer then most to start struggling with the depths of my own mind. In fact, coming back to work and being surrounded by people again (and noise) was incredibly traumatic. The first week back in the office was a shock, I kept flinching, couldn’t sleep and struggled to concentrate. Even now, five months later,  I still refuse to return full time, keeping to mandated three days a week because, by the end of the week I am literally hiding in a meeting room to get away from people. Thankfully because of density limits the discussion with work about returning full time has not occurred yet, but it will in time. Well, not for a few months now because *lockdown 4.0*. 

The true cost of this pandemic will not be in the lives saved or lost, but in the mental and emotional well being of people. I honestly don’t envy Governments in their roles right now, but honestly it has brought out the best and worst in people. 

One of my friends and I are using our ‘solo bubble’ to watch The Walking Dead, as it seemed fitting. All I can think of is that if this pandemic had truly caused us to turn into zombies, then my god we are screwed.

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