World

The Australians still putting their lives on hold to avoid Covid

While many people in Australia are getting on with their lives after years of COVID-19 lockdowns, some are still living with self-imposed restrictions, even as authorities relax the rules.
Victoria was the first state to lift the mandatory five-day isolation period for COVID-positive people on Wednesday to coincide with the lifting of its pandemic declaration. Other states and territories . Rules now only apply to those in certain settings such as hospitals and aged care.

Georgie has moved to the country and isn’t seeing her grandchild regularly

Georgie Whitton, 75, has moved out of Brisbane to a rural home in Queensland’s Glass House Mountains to avoid getting COVID-19. Her husband is having chemotherapy for a cancer diagnosis and can’t get vaccinated, so the couple decided to isolate themselves from the rest of the community.

“We don’t really have any choice,” Georgie says. “It’s a question of whether we want to go on living or not really, because I’m also very vulnerable.”

Georgie Whitton with her dog Bess. Source: Supplied

Georgie has previously had a stroke and also has asthma so is worried about getting infected. She is disappointed despite her age and health conditions, and says it has been five months since she was boosted.

“It’s very sad, because we’re fairly sociable people,” she says of having to isolate.

“We would have really liked to get to know people around here. But the only way we can do that is out in open spaces. So with no school-aged children to insert us into the community, the only place is the dog park, which is wonderful.”

The couple have also chosen to limit interactions with their family and Georgie says they have only seen their son and granddaughter once in eight months.

“They’re both mixing with the community a lot and the risk of their infecting us is just too great,” she says.

Bridget doesn’t want COVID-19 again and wears a ‘crazy’ mask on flights

Bridget is a 40-year-old based in Victoria who asked SBS not to use her surname. She has already had COVID-19 and also got sick with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes infections in the lungs, nose and throat, soon after. Three months later she still hasn’t fully recovered and continues to battle a chesty cough.
“I think it may have caused a blood clot in my lung. It’s pretty stressful,” she says.

Bridget felt “frustrated and angry” that restrictions were being removed, including the requirement to wear masks on public transport, as she’s worried about getting infected again.

People walking across a street

Life is going back to normal for many Australians but others have chosen to maintain restrictions to avoid COVID-19. Source: AAP

“We lived through such a harsh lockdown in Victoria, I was pregnant at the time, I had all sorts of pregnancy complications, and I had to do everything on my own. My husband was never allowed there,” she says.

“Through all of this, I’ve been homeschooling my daughter. We were living such a restricted life, and then suddenly COVID is a very real and present thing, and I appreciate that that was always the plan to get people vaccinated, but it shouldn’t just be a free-for-all now.”

We lived through such a harsh lockdown in Victoria … it shouldn’t just be a free for all now

Bridget, Melbourne resident

Bridget is also worried about catching COVID-19 while travelling to Adelaide to visit her parents, as masks are also no longer required on planes.
“My dad has lung issues, he’s 80. My mum she’s in her late 70s I don’t want to be catching COVID on the plane because people are not wearing a mask on the plane and then bringing it to my parents, they’re terrified of catching COVID,” she says.

“And now they’re a bit scared that they’ll go to the supermarket and the person working there might have COVID, and that’s allowed, it’s encouraged.”

Bridget says she still wears a mask in crowded places and had also bought a better quality mask to wear on the plane, even though she felt she was likely to get “funny looks from people who think you are some crazy person”.

“I don’t want to give COVID to my parents so I’ll wear it,” she says.

Louise is at-risk and chooses to avoid large shopping centres

Louise Leggett, 55, is also concerned about catching COVID-19 as she says she is slightly overweight and has high blood pressure, which could leave her at higher risk of severe disease.

She hasn’t been to a large shopping centre such as Chadstone or Fountain Gate in Melbourne for more than two years, and still schedules her grocery shopping trips for quieter periods.

A woman wearing a face mask

Louise Leggett hasn’t visited a large shopping centre for more than two years. Source: Supplied

“Our bodies could be a little unpredictable so that’s in the back of my mind so I don’t go out of my way to catch it and I do protect myself,” she says.

Louise believes people should still be required to wear masks on public transport.

“It’s sort of our duty to protect those in society that can’t protect themselves,” she says.

Robyn will only get takeaway coffees and wears a mask to the gym

Robyn Dunphy, 67, has psoriatic arthritis and is on immunosuppressive medication. She is at risk of severe disease. She still takes precautions such as avoiding shops, only buying takeaway coffees and even wearing a mask in the gym if there are other people there.
She says she won’t stop taking precautions until a vaccine is developed that stops transmission of the virus. Until then, Robyn believes mandatory isolation is critical and is supporting a .

“I accept I am a vulnerable person, but the point is that we don’t know who’s vulnerable and who’s not,” she says.

A woman with brown hair smiles

Robyn Dunphy is still taking precautions to avoid catching COVID-19. Source: Supplied

Robyn points out that some healthy people had developed long COVID or other conditions after getting infected.

“I really have major concerns about the number of people that are becoming disabled or chronically ill as a result of COVID and some of them, they’ve had quite mild infections,” she says.
Burnet Institute infectious disease researcher Professor Brendan Crabb says vulnerable high-risk people, whether they were disabled, chronically ill, immunocompromised or elderly, are now largely on their own.

“They have to be extraordinarily careful, this is a very serious illness, and there’s a lot of it around – even now there’s 40,000-odd cases in Australia.”

Professor Crabb says the lifting of mandatory isolation would strike fear in the hearts of millions of Australians.
“It’s not just a few hundred people, this is a very large proportion of Australian population who feel less safe as a result of this decision.”
The government’s decision comes after the World Health Organisation’s director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in September that an .
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said last month that while the isolation rules would end, “it does not in any way suggest that the pandemic is finished”.

Average daily case numbers are down in every state except Western Australia and Victoria. In total, Australia was recording around 5,177 cases a day on 4 October, and there were 189 deaths in the week ending 7 October.

Is it possible to continue avoiding COVID-19?

Associate Professor Paul Griffin is an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at the University of Queensland. He says catching COVID-19 is not “inevitable”.

“I certainly wouldn’t say that if you haven’t had COVID so far that it’s inevitable that you get it.”

I certainly wouldn’t say that if you haven’t had COVID so far that it’s inevitable that you get it

Associate Professor Paul Griffin

“We know that at least half the population had been exposed in Australia already, and it’s probably much higher than that, but if people have remained negative and keep doing all the right things I think there’s no reason I shouldn’t expect to continue in that way.”
He says it is likely that people who have avoided infection so far were up-to-date with their vaccines, and were probably doing things like wearing masks and social distancing.

“If that’s been effective thus far, there’s no reason to say that won’t continue to be effective moving forward,” he says.

“I’d certainly suggest to those people that they shouldn’t be fearful, that they should just continue doing all the right things, to protect themselves and people around them.
“And while obviously a lot of the rules have been removed, it’s not to say COVID has gone or that those rules should no longer be applied.

“I guess what we’re doing now is asking people to do it on a more voluntary basis. Given we know they’re effective, there’s no reason that those people shouldn’t continue doing them and continuing to enjoy the protection that they offer.”

What should people keep doing to avoid COVID-19?

Professor Griffin says the number one strategy to avoid COVID-19 is to be up to date with vaccines.
“From there, the combination of other non-pharmaceutical interventions like mask-wearing, social distancing, ventilation, are all still key and should still be applied.”

“I think that’s where we’ve fallen down with some of the messaging.

Young people wearing masks

Wearing a mask, keeping up with vaccintions, social distancing and ensuring good ventilation can all help people to continue avoiding COVID-19. Source: Getty

“Many people have seen the removal of the rules as an indicator that those things are no longer required, or perhaps they weren’t effective, whereas both of those things are not the case.

“We know COVID will come back and the better we are at mask-wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene and ensuring adequate ventilation, the better prepared we’re going to be, and the less we’re going to get impacted by that wave, whenever it does come.”

What is the risk of getting COVID-19 at the moment?

Professor Griffin says the immunity in the community from vaccination and COVID-19 infections makes it harder for the virus to spread and this provides some protection for those who have not yet got the virus.
In particular, those people who have been vaccinated and had also been infected would likely enjoy “hybrid immunity” that made them less likely to get infected or to pass it on.
“Those people that have the best protection from that hybrid immunity, will, in many ways, reduce the overall burden of transmission in the community,” Professor Griffin says. “And that’s what reduces the risk for those people that haven’t had COVID so far.”

Professor Griffin says it is perhaps one of the lowest risk periods that Australia has experienced when it came to COVID but added “it’s certainly not zero”.

He says it is likely Australia would see cases imported into Australia by overseas travellers in the coming months as the northern hemisphere enters winter.
“We’ve got a lot more infectious subvariants that are causing problems in different parts of the world, and given international travel is largely restored the world is once again a very small place.”
While the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks is reduced in summer, Professor Griffin says this is largely due to people’s behaviour as they were more likely to be outside, and to leave windows open, which provides better ventilation.
“It’s very clear this is not solely a seasonal virus, because we experienced a very significant peak early this year during our warmer period.”
“So it is important to point out that while the risk is less, that it’s far from zero, and we could see another peak, basically, at any point from now on.”
Additional reporting by Stephanie Corsetti

Would you like to share your story with SBS News? Email [email protected]

File source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close