Last week, we entered into a fifth lockdown here in Melbourne. Much like the others, things changed quickly. We knew that NSW was grappling to get on top of their cases, which was slightly unusual as they have seemed to be able to prevent these widespread outbreaks up until now. Their situation resembles where were last winter in Victoria: the virus out of control with consistently high numbers getting reported every day. There was a feeling of despair from a distance, but it didn’t take long for things to spill over and become acute closer to home.
I had heard that hundreds of people were returning to Victoria from NSW and had been asked to self-isolate. Perhaps they were, but it was then reported that removalists arrived from NSW, did not quarantine, and this resulted in the current outbreak.
I had busily been trying to be supportive of my friends who live in Sydney and was very conscious of not coming across as patronising or disconnected from their situation. All of a sudden, we were back there with them.
As always with these situations, my work ramped up massively and very abruptly. This may not be a bad thing as it certainly kept me focused on something else; something I could have a sense of control of. But under the surface, things felt somewhat different. Perhaps it was the interval being shorter between these most recent lockdowns? I’m not completely clear on this.
The same concerns are there – thinking about the impacts on the community and how fragile everything is right now – but there has been a kind of acceptance alongside these thoughts. For the things outside my immediate self, there are limited things I can do, but for my own self and response to this, there has been a kind of surrender. Maybe this is not the best way to describe it, but there is a sense now that this is most likely going to be the reality for some time to come.
For a long while, I believed that the vaccine would save us, but like all parts of this crisis, this has been steeped in politics and complications. While it is the only hope we have to contain widespread death and long-term serious illness from this disease, there are diverse opinions about the vaccine, supply issues and a slow release and uptake, and critically, the mutation of the virus itself – just to mention a few of the more obvious issues. Then as we see countries like the UK, who have a comparatively high vaccination rate, yet are now inundated with cases and hospitalisations (but there is good reason to consider this as being caused by inept leadership).
These developments all suggest that the situation I find myself in is here for the long term. I know that my own circumstances are relatively okay, but this can change at any moment as the fragile structure of society is hinged on the edge of some unknown.
At the moment, I am feeling that this burden and this unknown can only be stared down and faced head on. The sense of loss and uncertainty brought on by the fear of change and the undetermined is not different from any other time or moment in my existence. Life has always hung on a thread and there was never anything certain about it, despite the tricks I play on myself to tease me into temporarily forgetting this feeling that perennially lurks under the surface. But this doesn’t need to define me, I can be grateful for the small things and blessings that I have each day; to cherish these and appreciate them while they are here.
But even with these good intentions, there is no escaping the burden; the burden of knowing the inescapable interconnectedness and the collective suffering that this pandemic brings and magnifies.