It has certainly been an interesting few days here in South Australia. A crack was exposed in the shell of our little safety bubble.
For months we have experienced life very close to pre-covid normal: we’ve had no cases in the community, very few restrictions, no need to wear masks, and no worries.
This week that all changed, and quickly.
During a news conference, we were told that 17 people in the community had confirmed cases of locally acquired covid-19. The infection was likely transmitted from someone who was working at a medi-hotel (a hotel for returned overseas travellers in mandatory quarantine) and contact tracers were working hard to track down everyone at risk. Their efforts led to a long list of locations where people with covid had been in the past few days and anyone who had been at those locations at the specified times were asked to get tested.
The overwhelming feeling that I saw being shared, including by people interviewed at the testing facilities, was that everyone “wanted to do the right thing for the community.”
Meanwhile, borders to South Australia started slamming shut.
By Wednesday, the city was quiet but not deserted.
At the mid-day news conference, they announced that South Australia would be entering a six day hard lockdown as of midnight: no exercise outside, only the barest of essential workers to in to work, construction and factories shut down, wear a mask if you are outside for an approved reason.
The reason was a concern about the means of transmission among the known cases. The case causing concern was someone who’s only known link to other cases was via a pizza delivery he claimed to have received.
Despite the reassurance that the grocery stores would remain open, the shelves were stripped bare. (Honestly, didn’t anyone learn from the last time around? It is completely unnecessary to hoard toilet paper.)
Hubby and I were disappointed, but otherwise prepared. We had food, toilet paper and a home gym, and had already shifted back to working from home. I ordered a delivery of coffee pods and mentally settled in for the week.
South Australia’s rapid and strict response to roughly 20 cases made international news.
For 36 hours the city was deserted. For the first time we saw images of South Australia that reflected to barren cityscapes in other countries.
At the mid-day news conference, we received good news: we didn’t need to complete the full six-day lockdown and, while there were still restrictions, effective immediately we could exercise outside. From Sunday morning, more restrictions would ease.
The case causing concern had lied to contact tracers, he actually worked at the pizza place (the assumption is for cash-in-hand). The state leadership explained that caution still need to be exercised to ensure cases don’t get out of control, but the “circuit breaker” lockdown was no longer necessary.
South Australia made international news again. (Twice in one week! It’s normally a surprise to make international headlines at all.)
We aren’t back to where we were only a week ago and some restrictions will remain in the next few weeks.
I feel both unaffected and exhausted by the past few days. The event was a jarring reminder of the reality faced so many people outside of our bubble, but I don’t know if everyone learned the lesson. At the shops today there were more people than ever wearing masks, but certainly not a majority. I worry about complacency.
There will be all sorts of opinions and reflections on the speed at which the state decided to go into lockdown and how the information acquired. Businesses lost money and some will struggle to get back to where they were just a few weeks ago. I’ll be surprised if the pizza shop at the centre of this episode survives.
Despite all this, I think they made the right call.
South Australia’s leaders acted quickly on the information they had and on established protocols aimed at keeping the state as safe as possible. When new information came to light, they acted quickly again. What more can we ask of our leaders in a crisis?
If they had delayed while trying to get more information, the outbreak could have been so much worse. If the alternative to acting decisively is a several-month lockdown like we saw in Melbourne or the uncontrollable spread seen in the US, I for one am happy to endure a 36-hour hard lockdown.
During Tuesday’s press conference, South Australia’s leaders were talking about how we needed to stay at home if possible because we had 20 known case. At the same time, the ticker underneath read “1 million new cases in America in the last 6 days”.
Which situation would you rather be in?
Our bubble has had some air let out, and we all need to remain vigilant, but thanks to the quick response our bubble is still there.