DIGEST

The Informer: Australia, get set to enter year three of the COVID-19 pandemic

Australia, get set to enter year three of the COVID-19 pandemic

Tomorrow, January 25, is an Australian anniversary of sorts. We will enter our third year of COVID-19.

Initially I wrote "living with COVID-19" but that's incorrect. Sadly, not everyone gets that opportunity however bleak that may be.

The nation's first coronavirus case was recorded - a Victorian man in his 50s - on January 25, 2020. Our first COVID-related death came on March 1.

So much has changed, yet so little.

It took just five days for the World Health Organisation to declare the virus outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern". Now we're on our third variant and, as difficult as it may be to admit, we know (because we're all de facto epidemiologists, right?) that we're not done with variants just yet.

So the clouds of doubt continue swirl. As the summer holidays wind down, parents are getting their heads around how their kids' education will pan out this year. The thought of returning to school is plagued with anxiety and fear for some, while others are only making sense of the new arrangements revealed today.

Either way, if you've spent years telling your children not to put indiscriminate pieces of Lego up their nose, be prepared for some resistance when you unwrap that rapid antigen test.

Interestingly, it was NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard who advised parents to deliver a "calm message" when introducing twice-weekly RATs at home to their school-age kids. It's safe to say Mr Hazzard has delivered a few "blunt" edicts in his time at the microphone over the past few years, even if that wasn't the case today when a he was happy to take second place to a helicopter.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer John Gerrard put it a different way. He admitted it was hard "to get the tone right" so parents were vigilant rather than paranoid.

"My impression is that most young people are not afraid of this virus, which is probably legitimate, although we want them to get vaccinated because there are rare complications," he said.

And there's the crunch. The unknown.

Imagine Ellie Robertson's state of mind. She's a 53-year-old woman living with spinal muscular atrophy. She relies on a clutch of support workers to just get out of bed.

At one point, five of her usual seven carers were isolating due to COVID and she was understandably bereft.

"I rang around all these government sites and my question was 'what do I do if I get COVID? Who is going to look after me? Do I need to go hospital? Will anyone care for me?'" Ms Robertson says.

"I couldn't get any answers and it made me feel like shit, like a second-class citizen."

Here's hoping in the next 730 days of whatever comes next, we somehow manage to be kinder, more inclusive and find the right tone.

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This story Australia, get set to enter year three of the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.