Have I mentioned I'm in lockdown?

I’ve been in bed sick for a week, which is a very boring way to start a piece of writing but it sets the context for my thoughts and why my mind has been wandering. I’ve been reading the news as a semi-normal person would, and not immersed in it as I usually am in my working life and in the way I have been since the latest NSW outbreak and ongoing lockdown. I'm not about to start sending newsletters regularly, only when the mood strikes, and as I'm still sick in bed there's not much else to do.

Some notes I have made over the week:

I tell ya what, people seem to be going cuckoo bananas.

Mental health impacts of lockdown were a cloak used by the libertarian “let it rip” crowd last year when there was no vaccine. But there is a kernel of truth in the argument they were using to drive their agenda while they freaked out about being inconvenienced. And that kernel of truth is: lockdown is extremely difficult. There is a cost to it, and that cost becomes heavier (more expensive?? I need an editor) the longer it goes on. The cost is at the most fundamental level, our relationships with each other, our ties to the community, the vital stuff that makes life not just bearable, but enjoyable.

It’s really hard to be forced to go a year without seeing your dad. It’s really hard to have a grandchild born and not be able to see them. It’s really hard to have someone die and not partake in the usual rituals that help us say goodbye and grieve. It’s really hard not to decompress from the week over a couple of cold beers with your mates. All of it, is really fucking hard.

A middle class woman said this week that the end of lockdown is something only comfortable people who can work from home want. That they are the only ones prepared to “sacrifice lives” to Covid so they can have more freedom. I think it’s very weird, and yes, out of touch, to think that it’s people living in apartments who want to extend lockdown. I think it’s odd to paint people who want a path out of lockdown as treating death as academic or in the abstract.

I did a quiz from a reputable university that figured out your risk of being hospitalised, and separately also dying, from Covid. For the fun of it. It asked lots of questions about age, health etc to ascertain risk factors, the calculator only ran for people older than 18. As I was idly filing it out my blood ran cold when it asked if I have a congenital heart condition.

I do not. My son does.

What does that mean for him? The quiz could not tell me, especially since my son is years too young for any approved vaccine in the world.

I have a sister in Melbourne who is one of my favourite people in the world. We’ve had a hard border between us for most of the past 18 months. My other sister started working this year as a registered nurse on the emergency ward. My brother is right this moment, treating intubated Covid patients in an ICU in Sydney. A lot of this stuff is not academic or abstract for me. A lot of this stuff is actually terrifying to me if I think about it for too long, which I basically just have to stop myself doing.

But public policy cannot be dictated by my personal terror.

I never thought I would ever begin a sentence “as a mum” but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures so: keeping in mind all the aforementioned terror, “as a mum” I am losing my fucking mind.

I would love lockdown to end tomorrow. I don’t think lockdown should end tomorrow.

Not only am I in lockdown but I am in harsher lockdown than other parts of Sydney because I am in an euphemistically named “LGA of concern”. This means that I am a little bit more scared for my boys sometimes, and also that I’m only allowed outside to exercise for one hour a day and I’m not allowed outside between 9pm and 5am. I understand the need for lockdown, obviously, but I also like my lockdown to be rooted in public health evidence and I’m yet to see one iota of evidence for a government mandated curfew.

Talking to my friend who is also in an “LGA of concern” we compared notes and realised how often we had both heard the phrase (from people outside of our “LGAs of concern”) “why do you need to leave the house after 9pm?”

well, first of all, it is none of your business.

It is necessary to put restrictions on people during a global health pandemic that would otherwise be deemed, how would you say, CRAZY, but those restrictions 1) have to serve a social good 2) have to serve public health 3) should not be unnecessarily onerous.

It is none of your business why I would leave my house after 9pm, why do you have to leave your house at midday?

But, if you must know, I am working long hours from home while tag teaming the care of toddlers. Have I mentioned I have two toddlers??????

So, sometimes at the end of a long day in front of my computer, after I have done dinner bath bed, usually by myself as my husband works evenings, I like to go for a walk. Sometimes during that walk I call my sister, sometimes I just enjoy the night and the silence and sometimes I listen to an album, while being in the fresh air without my spine bending to the glow of a computer screen or to outstretched little hands. I used to get home from it after 9pm.

Some people are so keen to point to England having their hot vaxxed summer as a success story we should be looking to. England has 133,000 dead. So far. 50 to 100 people are still dying every day there. And they had very lengthy lockdowns, so not only did they have to suffer lockdowns, they still had the bodies piling up. At least our lockdowns have broadly worked, in the sense that we don’t have 133,000 dead.
There will be more deaths in Australia from Covid, likely for years to come, and although Covid is not like the flu, it is true we as a society accept certain numbers of death each year from various preventable illnesses and activities that do not get banned. It’s very politically difficult to take people on that journey though, from Covid zero mentality, to accepting Covid deaths as a matter of course. Not only is it politically difficult, there are not many leaders who have the political will for it at the moment.

I think perhaps that’s why so many people, and by so many people I mean people on Twitter, seem to conflate living with Covid with letting it rip. There is not a leader in Australia, from Dan Andrews and Mark McGowan to Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian who support letting it rip, meaning: who propose or plan to lift every restriction we have when vaccination of the population over the age of 16 reaches 70% and then 80%.

Everyone agrees there will be more freedom when we reach those targets, but we will not drop every restriction. My interpretation, particularly of the NSW premier’s comments, is that there will be outdoor dining, capacity limits on venues, social distancing, masks etc etc.

I genuinely believe we have avoided catastrophe though.

The thing about being sick is you still have to parent. Walking in the street Hamish ran ahead and then turned around putting his arms out to Cormac yelling “I love you I love you I love you I love you” and basically crash tackled him in a hug. That’s what I mean when I say my kids are the best part of lockdown.

They’re also the worst part.

I understand the frustration people, particularly people in Victoria, have that NSW didn’t lockdown sooner. Gladys was running a strategy that had worked well multiple times before though. But to paraphrase the IRA to Maggie Thatcher: Gladys had to be lucky every time, Covid only had to be lucky once.

It's really shitting me how I have to hear what multiple premiers think and feel every day. They should be background noise to my life. There shouldn't be more than a handful of times each year when I even remember they exist.

A line in the latest edition of The Monthly, in a review of a book about Lebanon: Humans might not be able to bear too much reality … but they can get used to almost anything.

Brigid Delaney posted on Twitter this quote from Seneca: we are bad men living among bad men, and only one thing can calm us - we must agree to go easy on one another.

Which is all to say, I do not like the global health pandemic and I miss my dad.