Today, Scott Morrison proclaimed that “we are all Victorians”. On the other side of a closed border, visceral lockdowns and putrid politics, I feel that might be a bit of a stretch.
Let me begin this distressing saga of the six-week Covid-19 blanket lockdown in Melbourne, and the accompanying, inevitable, business disaster, with a silly, personal story.
This from a person, a Victorian ‘leper’, stranded in Sydney when the NSW premier shut the border to stop what the Sydney Daily Telegraph called ‘Mexicans’ crossing the Murray River (our Rio Grande). And a recent cartoon depicted a number plate with the slogan: Victoria-The Pariah State.
I had planned to fly north on business, as hot spot postcodes were being isolated and public housing towers were turned into guarded prisons. I did the right thing and bought a face mask to wear on the plane.
I had not been to Tullamarine for about five months and was naively shocked by how deserted the airport was. Strings of cafes, newsagents, and boutique shops, closed. Few passengers. Some cops, and other uniforms, toting some seriously large weaponry.
Diligently, and defying Donald Trump, I put on my face mask and headed for check-in. Within a few steps, my glasses were fogged so badly I could not see where I was walking. I cleaned them and tried again. Same result. On the plane, it was useless to even try to read through the fog. You’ve probably heard the nickname for Washington. Foggy Bottom. Well, in my case it was foggy top.
That night, I Facebooked my face mask disaster, with a photo taken on the plane, and asked if anybody else had the same problem. (I have since seen photographic proof that author Louise Milligan suffered the same experience). Some of the suggested solutions were bizarre: smear your glasses with shaving cream or toothpaste. Buy some anti-fog spray. Luckily, some astute people studied the photo and gave me the solution. I had been wearing my face mask upside down. The metal strip is not supposed to sit snugly under your chin but crest your nose and be moulded into a tight, fog-free, fit. Voila.
New South Wales was right to close the border. Victorian Premier Andrews was right to go back to the severe Stage Three restrictions. When you have nearly 200 new cases reported in one day – a worse tally than the so-called ‘peak’ in March and April — it’s a real case of ‘Houston, we have a problem’.
But let’s get to the serious side of coronavirus developments and some retrograde steps taken in recent weeks.
New South Wales was right to close the border. Victorian Premier Andrews was right to go back to the severe Stage Three restrictions. When you have nearly 200 new cases reported in one day – a worse tally than the so-called ‘peak’ in March and April — it’s a real case of ‘Houston, we have a problem’. And it is the biggest health problem Australia has faced since the Spanish flu 100 years ago.
It is encouraging that Victoria has now tested more than a million people. On that issue, I did say on Sunrise I was bewildered why anybody would refuse a Covid-19 test? Just crazy. And I do believe, if you refuse a test in this crisis, you should be quarantined and, if after 14 days, you refuse again, you should stay in quarantine and start paying your own hotel bill.
There have been problems, some because of political and bureaucratic sloppiness. The government’s use of untrained private security guards to keep virus suspect tourists in hotel quarantine was stupid. Especially when horny ‘guards’ got involved in horizontal folk dancing with some of the detainees.
The sudden lockdown of nine public housing towers, aptly described as ‘vertical cruise ships’, was wise but badly handled. If advance notice had been given, people would have fled. And, in the public housing towers, there were residents, refugees, understandably suspicious, even fearful, of men in uniform. The mere sight could trigger nightmares.
Also on The Big Smoke
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- As America goes to the polls, I’m reminded of the bloody elections of 1968
- I said Christmas Island was a workable quarantine plan – it kicked off a war on Twitter
- Hinch’s hunch: Despite the hype, the democrats won’t back Bernie
The food supply wasn’t thought out for ethnic and cultural reasons. We heard stories about culturally insensitive food packs (who serves Weetbix without milk?), and some of the food provided had best-before dates of April 2019.
No thought was given to mothers urgently needing baby formula or women needing sanitary products. And what do you do if your dog needs to go outside for a poo when you are banned from leaving your flat?
A journo friend, no crisis expert, said: ‘Why didn’t they stick an Army canteen in the parking lot to cook for residents?’ Good point. That’s what happened to me when I was stranded, foodless, during Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii.
I do have a theory that a lot of the new crisis goes back to the BLM demo. I support Black Lives Matter, but it doesn’t matter how many actual cases stemmed from the crowd. When 10,000 people ignored the rules and social distancing with immunity and impunity other people thought: ‘Fuck it! I’m going to visit my Nona… I’m having a party to end Ramadan’. That was the day that Victoria lost its social soul. Too many people thought the crisis was over.
Some of the politics in all this has been cynical and putrid. A tweet I posted the other day had the biggest reaction of anything I have sent in years.
I said: ‘An idealistic view. Wouldn’t it be great if Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien would stop bitching on the TV news and say: ‘We have a medical emergency here. I’ll do whatever the premier wants to work together on this.’ Wishful thinking.
But I think ScoMo was stretching it a bit this week when he said ‘we are all Victorians’. Even in a truncated football season, even in a pandemic, club and state loyalties run too deep.
We will get through this, but jeez, it is going to be hard on so many families and businesses. Be patient and tolerant.