It’s been less than a week since lockdown officially ended and already I feel like I can breathe easier.
Even though, practically speaking, not much has changed in terms of day-to-day life for many of us, who continue to work from home and socially distance, seeing light on the horizon definitely has a positive impact on our mental health.
However, even as some of us are chomping at the bit to get back into the world, many feel anxious at the thought of mingling with strangers when they can’t know for sure who is and isn’t vaccinated.
I’ve been surprised by how many of my friends and family are genuinely too nervous about potentially contracting COVID to feel confident going to the shops, meeting friends, or heading into busier public spaces, even now they’re allowed to. It might seem like an overreaction to some, but COVID still poses a significant risk, and it understandably causes some hesitation across the community.
For those who were vaccinated early in the year, they worry that their level of immunity may be reduced as time wears on without a booster shot. For others, the fear remains that even with our high vaccination rates, the virus is present enough to act as a deterrent.
It’s time we asked whether we should bite the bullet and introduce proof of vaccination requirements for hospitality and retail venues that attract large numbers of people.
To date, the Chief Minister has shied away from this move, noting that we have such a high rate of vaccination in Canberra it might seem unnecessary – but I would argue that the value in proof of vaccination requirements is not only practical but symbolic. It’s about helping people feel safe and reinforcing the importance of being vaccinated to those who remain hesitant.
Of course, there are those in the community who can’t be vaccinated for any number of valid health reasons, so a system would need to be developed to account for them – but it would also be to their benefit, particularly if they have lower immunity, to know that the high traffic places they need to go are reserved for those who are vaccinated or those who have a valid health reason for not being vaccinated.
Coming out of COVID is challenging for everyone. It’s hard to transition back to working away from home or heading back to school. Kids have to adjust back to routines they haven’t encountered in months, and businesses are trying to navigate the gradual easing of restrictions to get back in the black.
I’ve heard from friends and family how anxious they feel about just having ordinary social interactions and how odd it feels to be around groups of people again. Even a small period of time in crisis mode can profoundly impact our mental health, and adding to that, the fear of the virus itself means that things may never feel entirely ‘normal’ again.
If showing proof of vaccination can help us get back to the vibrant Canberra we love, I’m all for it.