So let me see if I can understand this – almost 50,000 people crammed, yes, crammed) into Suncorp Stadium/Lang Park amid a global pandemic. It was the largest sports crowd in the world since Covid restrictions were applied in March. Biosecurity protocols involved in buying tickets and entering the venue, was proof enough for the Queensland Government, given that anyone attending could be contacted after the event.
Yes, amazing what governments, big business, broadcasters and multinational betting agencies can achieve.
Last time I went to Brisbane’s footie stadium with that many people, it was everything that social distancing is not. Ladies, as few of you will have ever seen a urinal, we stand shoulder to shoulder at the trough. If it is busy, there will be a row of blokes behind us, waiting for a gap to appear. Many, faced with a tedious wait for the wash basins, often dispense with the formality.
Just one example.
As of 4pm on Tuesday, rules were relaxed for pubs and restaurants in Queensland and ‘normal’ crowds welcomed back for entertainment venues, including theatres.
As of the 17th, we can now have 50 people in our homes (though why would you, I thought).
The State government allows itself an ‘out’ by being able to declare a restricted Local Government Area, should the need arise.
In this case, only 10 people are allowed in your home, and that includes people who already live there.
Queenslanders can travel anywhere within the State for any reason, with no limit on distance. You can stay overnight within the State for as many nights as you like.
It’s not a level playing field, though. Queensland Health says that special visitor rules apply for aged care facilities, hospitals and disability accommodation providers.
At the same time these changes were pending, an outbreak of Coronavirus cases in South Australia demonstrated once again that Covid-19 is the gift that no-one wants, yet it nevertheless keeps on giving. Queensland too was finding new cases, most associated with quarantine from people returning from overseas.
But regardless of mixed messages, Queensland Health advice is still that you must practise physical distancing as much as possible and wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Use (60%+) alcohol-based sanitiser, avoid hugs, kisses and handshakes and keep 1.5 metres away from other people. Or as we say here – a kangaroo apart.
While Queenslanders are getting all enthusiastic about the ‘return to normal’, the Covid cluster that emerged in South Australia is a timely warning that this virus is not going away. SA is dealing with its untimely cluster by re-introducing some restrictions, the oddest of which is that you are not allowed to stand and drink in a pub.
“Mate, don’t stand at the bar coughing over everyone. Come over here to my table and cough on us instead.”
SA was to go into a six-day severe lockdown to hopefully stamp out the growing cluster of cases (34 and counting). However, today the ABC news advised that the lockdown would end on Saturday night, three days early.
I realise that my somewhat cautious approach to full slather mingling may upset people who think Covid restrictions are too much-too long. I chatted to a few people who have either been through the quarantine ritual or are Aussie ex-pats looking on from a distance.
Morocco-based Suzanna Clarke, who operates an accommodation business in Morocco and France, can’t believe what she is seeing on social media. A Brisbane friend posted photos of musicians mingling at a ‘session’ (where folkies gather at an ale house to play diddly tunes and sing songs).
“No social distancing, no masks needed! Consider yourselves extremely lucky,” Suzanna wrote. “There is no way I would be attending a similar event on this side of the planet.”
Morocco (pop 36 million), has recorded 307,000 cases and 5,031 deaths. Suzanna says it is hard to know what’s currently going on.
“It’s also very hard to get a PCR test – even if you can afford it. So the numbers are likely to be much higher. The government doesn’t want to go into lockdown again because people will starve. Literally. Unemployment benefits are only available for a few. My business here has been shut since March. My business in France was starting to pick up, and they went back into lockdown.
So every booking I had was cancelled. We still have wages to pay, so we’re trying to get by on what we have, and raiding our savings. We are, of course, are among the lucky ones.”
Musician friends Silas Palmer and Sarah Busuttil recently posted a series of videos on Facebook depicting 14 days of life at the Howard Springs quarantine facility in Darwin. They flew from Melbourne to the Northern Territory, en route to Queensland and northern NSW to visit a gravely ill family member.
Since this week’s missive is somewhat dire, I thought I’d share this cheerful video the duo made during Victoria’s 112-day lockdown.
(Collins’ Dictionary word of the year, by the way!).
Meanwhile, the world’s share markets have, as usual, over-reacted to news that Big Pharma has a vaccine ready to go. Global share markets rose 10% in a week.
FOMM reader Mr Shiraz, a strict follower of Covid prevention protocols, had this to say on Facebook:
“I have been thinking about the excitement elicited by Covid vaccine announcements (Ed: described in share market reports as ‘vaccine optimism’).
“It has taken us more than three decades to get polio 99% eradicated. To imagine a Covid planetary vaccination program being anywhere near good enough for “normal” life to resume in five years is silly.”
A recent article in the UK’s pre-eminent medical journal, The Lancet, advised that we get used to social distancing, hand sanitisation and wearing masks because it will be with us for “several years”.
Science magazine Nature concurred, citing a team of researchers in virus hotspots at Anhembi Morumbi University, São Paulo, Brazil. They ran more than 250,000 mathematical models of social-distancing strategies.
The team concluded that if 50–65% of people are cautious in public, then stepping down social-distancing measures every 80 days could help to prevent further infection peaks over the next two years. Bear in mind that this research was published in August, which in the context of a fast-moving pandemic is probably a bit old.
Current international statistics are extremely worrying:
- US 11.6m cases, 250,000 deaths;
- India: 8.91m cases, 131,000 deaths;
- Brazil: 5.91m cases 171,000 deaths;
- France: 2.71m cases, 46,698 deaths;
- Russia: 1.99m cases, 34,387 deaths’
Australia looks comparatively healthy when you consider there have been 27,777 cases and 901 deaths since January.
However, there have been 93 recent cases, including 21 reported in the last 24 hours. Drilling down into Queensland’s stats, we have had 1,190 cases, 6 deaths and 12 active cases, including 3 in the last 24 hours.
Well excuse me. Much as I loved watching Queensland snatch the Origin series away from New South Wales, I won’t be going to any major sporting events, this year or next.
As Mr Shiraz says: “Let’s adopt a new normal expectation.”