23 September 2021

Is our community starting to crack in COVID-land?

| Zoya Patel
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As weeks turn into months, many of us are struggling to maintain the lockdown behaviour we were diligent about 40 days ago. Photo: Region Media.

Forty days in, and lockdown land is starting to feel somewhat surreal.

As a community that was largely sheltered from the full lockdown experience until now, Canberrans are finally beginning to relate to what our Victorian and NSW counterparts told us was going to be a strange and stressful time.

I won’t lie: when lockdown was first announced, I wasn’t too worried.

Naively, and from a position of immense privilege, I assumed I would weather the expected (at that time) short period in hibernation well. Think of how much writing I’d get done! I have a novel coming out I could be editing! I still have my full-time work to occupy my time, and the comfort and security of my home, relationship and health to hold on to.

Being fully vaccinated, I felt cushioned from the threat of COVID, and my only concern was contracting and spreading the virus to others.

Ah, to go back to that more innocent version of myself.

READ ALSO Teen allegedly breached COVID laws during 3:30 am cigarette run

Now, my outlook is quite different – the cracks are starting to appear, and I’m noticing them in others too.

Every day is a sepia-toned repeat of the one before. Despite being ordinarily blessed with robust mental health, I find myself feeling anxious for no reason, leaning heavily on sugar and carbs to get me through each day, and starting to lose my patience with the people I’m connected to (albeit via a screen).

And from what I’ve witnessed around me, the cracks are widening in the community at large too. One pressure point is the responsibility we feel to enforce COVID-safe behaviour in others, especially as the lockdown drags on.

It’s understandable that as weeks turn into months, many of us are struggling to maintain the lockdown behaviour we were diligent about 40 days ago. I find myself itching to take my mask off while walking the dog, especially as the weather gets warmer. Even though they’re nowhere near my local area, the impulse to see friends is strong. The desire to visit my parents, especially when I know they’re struggling with being so isolated from their family networks, is overwhelming. If I’m feeling it, I have no doubt others are feeling it too.

Inevitably, some of us will slip into past behaviours, and others are forced to call it out and gently point out the rules that are being broken. This feels incredibly awkward and can lead to defensive and combative reactions. It makes the offender feel embarrassed, stressed, maybe angry – and the other person feels like a fun-policing dibby-dobber.

To be frank, our many cultural norms around being a good sport, not ‘telling on’ people, and generally being relaxed and chilled out make it challenging to hold people accountable to lockdown laws.

READ ALSO Rod Sims: the competition and consumer watchdog bringing big business to heel

I’ve witnessed a few of these scenarios over the past few days (and by ‘witnessed’, I do mean via Facebook messenger chats relaying info, while I languish in my home). In one instance, a friend wanted a small picnic to celebrate a milestone. Another friend had to point out that it strictly wasn’t within lockdown rules. What ensued was a snippy debate about who was right or wrong, and a pervasive sense of hurt and confusion between both parties, who ultimately were coming from positive places albeit cross purposes.

Similarly, I’ve heard from other friends about their frustration at being called out on social media for going to pick up items they purchased on Facebook marketplace during lockdown, which couldn’t really be considered ‘essential’ (the decision to post it on social media also says something about how mundane our days are, that this was a source of excitement). And another friend has been called out for attempting to meet someone from Tinder during lockdown.

It’s immensely difficult to adjust to such a significant change in our daily freedoms over such a short period of time. It’s even more complicated when we have to, by and large, enforce the rules ourselves, because so much COVID-safe behaviour is reliant on people’s honesty and compliance.

The concept of ‘community’ is so closely linked to physical proximity and the organic interactions we can have with each other, and in the absence of these factors, we’re left with the tedious parts of common society with none of the benefits.

Let’s exercise kindness and compassion, even as we commit to accountability and a collective effort to get out of this thing. The Canberra we have post-COVID may look somewhat different to what it did beforehand, but we still have a community worth fighting to keep safe.

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One thing that these lockdowns have taught me – if you were ever going to start a business, make sure you can sell all your products online

Wow. The only thing I notice about lockdown is I can’t get a haircut. Otherwise there are no more or less signs of life than usual. No one is in the office, but with flexible work arrangements that is normal in Canberra. I’m from Melbourne and I know first hand the damage extended lockdowns inflict on people. The thing with Canberra is that people here can’t comprehend that the only place in the world that is like Canberra is Canberra. Love it or hate it or something in between….but stop complaining about being ‘locked down’ in Canberra, with no comprehension of what the rest of the world has been going through for 20 months. Please. Show some maturity. Toughen up. Grow up. Understand it’s not all about Canberra and Canberrans. Wear a black turtleneck and ride your bike to the Carillon. That’s as exciting as it gets here, we can still do it, what is the problem?

Unbelievable. First world problems & whingers. How about living through one of the Ethiopian famines, the second world war or more recently Syrian war etc. Get a grip.

Yes – just how difficult is it to wear a mask, keep your distance, and QR on a full stomach and without having to dodge bombs and bullets. Imagine if we had to have blackout curtains – the place’d be lit up like Luna Park.

I am not going to wear a mask while walking my dog along a bush or forest track. If I see you and say hello, please smile and say hello back. We are all becoming anti-social and paranoid. Stuff the Chief Nanny.

“”Is our community starting to crack in COVID-land?””

Well I don’t know. Is port with your rice bubbles a sort of a crack.
Am not doing that yet, but mightn’t be long before I shortly start googling for different breakfast cereal combinations .

“The majority of Canberrans either have moved from interstate or have links such as family in other states.”

Exactly, and why in contrast to the ‘Canberra Bubble’ proponents with their self serving ideological motivations there is a strong case that Canberra residents are in fact more in touch with their fellow Australians than those living anywhere else in the country!

Capital Retro9:28 am 23 Sep 21

I had to have a blood test yesterday and because the pathology collection site I usually use had been closed (along with many others) I was directed to another suburb. It was very busy and most people arriving had to mingle with people already waiting on the footpath outside, after registering.

There were no instruction signs or staff to direct people so every second person arriving got confused and walked in without using the QR check-in.

Being one waiting on the footpath after QR registering I tried to remind people to do it but some ignored me, some thanked me for reminding them and others clearly didn’t understand English.

Standing on the footpath I realized that I was the only one not using my mobile device while waiting. I also realized that the QR check-in system is a failure because it is not enforced and so are our current migration values a failure because we are not insisting that our new citizens learn and use English.

Ditch Facebook and you will be much happier. Facebook is a morale vampire

The majority of Canberrans either have moved from interstate or have links such as family in other states. It already became and us vs them, state vs state affair over the border restrictions and unequal distribution of vaccines. The government is so clueless and weak in the ACT without a clear roadmap out of lockdown that I don’t think there is a strong Canberran identity at all. Each of my neighbours seem to have NSW or Victorian number plates. We are kneecapping our businesses and tradies with these ongoing lockdowns with hardly any support. When faced with life and death choices it’s always a survival of the fittest mentality that wins out.

” I find myself itching to take my mask off while walking the dog, especially as the weather gets warmer.”

Feel free to do so providing you are not close to other people. The rules allow you to do so (assuming you are in the ACT).

Or take your dog for a run as you don’t need to wear one when exercising vigorously (yeah doesn’t really make sense, but oh well).

Stop looking for negatives and start taking advantage of what you can do.

Not to minimise the experiences outlined in this article, but the lockdowns can have even far more reaching and impactful consequences for people, as briefly noted in the article, for example, business loss, job loss, income loss, unable to leave un safe homes/situations, social loss, learning loss etc etc.

I think what would be more productive than the community policing other people’s behaviour, would be for the community to think critically about the situation, read beyond the one or two line narratives presented by government officials, try to understand the evidence available and engage with the democratic process of ensuring government represents all people in its jurisdiction. This, in my opinion, is looking out for the well being of community.

“Inevitably, some of us will slip into past behaviours, and others are forced to call it out and gently point out the rules that are being broken.”

I do think it’s funny that you think people are “forced” to “call out” other people’s minor breaches of the covid restrictions.

It’s good that the government have such a great Community Karen police force ready to jump on others for any minor indiscretion.

If you want to maintain that sense of community, less worrying about what other people might be doing is probably a good place to start.

“If you want to maintain that sense of community, less worrying about what other people might be doing is probably a good place to start.”

If you want to maintain that sense of community, less worrying about minor inconveniences to ourselves that failure to adhere to could have a major impact on others, is probably a good place to start.

Brisal,
Firstly, i’m not worrying about those “minor” inconveniences so I don’t know who your comment is aimed at?

Secondly, you assume that most of the rules are sensible, based on evidence and that people even know the correct rules in the first place to be able to hold others to account.

Unfortunately none of those things are correct.

Hear hear chewy14. Since when did we become a city of dobbers and self-appointed community vigilantes? Capital Retro: most people are good people, they mean no harm. If someone else is not wearing a mask; not checking-in with QR codes; not maintaining ‘distance’ – it is not your job to correct them. Some days I am exhausted, despondent, lonely and so so down with this whole situation, I may not be as swift or compliant as you would like me to be – and that is coming from someone who is trying to do the right thing. Please have some compassion, we are all weary.

Capital Retro3:35 pm 23 Sep 21

It’s not me making the rules and I am not trying to enforce them, nor I am I acting out of self interest.

Would you prefer that these people get infected because they can’t be notified that they may have visited an infection site? Are you happy to see the resultant chaos they cause stretch the health system beyond the limit? Well, I’m not.

Prevention (not compassion) is better than cure.

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