So. An update from Australia. Because there have been some developments here in regards to international travel which you would think would get me excited, but honestly after the last 20 months I am still holding my breath. But there is good news on international travel and our vaccine rollout.
In my previous update a few weeks back now, I talked about the steps to reopening and the way the different states and territories have worked not together but more as their own little chiefdoms throughout this pandemic. I’m really only going to talk about Victoria (where I live) and New South Wales (where you will find Sydney) although I will touch on some other states today.
As far as vaccination numbers are going here, despite the incredibly slow, bungled rollout that barely took place between March and July here, NOW things are very different. International travel and most restrictions to be eased per state and territory when 80% double vaccination occurred in over 16s. Well in New South Wales that happened yesterday!
No-one saw it coming that fast. To top it off daily new infections in New South Wales have gone from 1700 a month ago or less, to around 400 a day at the moment. Factor in that the total over 16s who have received any dose is over 92% in that state, it’s truly remarkable and as a result international travel will resume in/from New South Wales from November the FIRST. This date started as December 18, then November 14, and now November 1! New South Wales has a new premier as Gladys Berejiklian stepped down a couple of weeks back. He’s anti-lockdown and he’s added freedoms for the good people of New South Wales into the plans.
On top of that, they ran a trial on one week home quarantine to conclude that quarantine isn’t viable when you have thousands of people returning to Australia a day, so from November first for fully vaccinated people (must be a recognised vaccine which includes AZ, Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, Sinovac (I think, whichever is the most used Chinese vaccine) and Covishield (the Indian vaccine). A PCR test will be required I believe before and after the flight. This does NOT yet extend to international visitors, this is a little way off but I wouldn’t think more than a couple of months, so look to early January if you’re desperate to visit Australia as soon as is humanly possible.
My state, in contrast, recently passed 256 or so days of lockdown and is the officially most locked down city IN THE WORLD. Despite that, we are still in our 7 day snap lockdown that began in August (I think it’s at around 78 days now) and our figures continue to be a source of despair in excess on many days this week of 2000 new cases a day. Why? Well, lockdown fatigue means that a very hefty chunk of the population are not following the lockdown laws and no-one is coming down hard on those who do. Which is probably fair enough, because after the amount of time we’ve been in lockdown, you can’t blame anyone for that. People have been visiting people in their homes when they aren’t allowed to, mostly on weekends, and by Wednesday or Thursday of the next week we see a sharp jolt (rise) in daily case numbers.
Despite that, we are due to hit 70% fully vaccinated by the end of this week coming -Thursday or Friday, when they will declare us out of lockdown. And we are told we are exiting lockdown regardless of the case numbers, although our hospitals are apparently under extreme stress already so it’s a bit of a worry. But I think the consensus is we can’t keep going like this any more. We also have 88% of over 16s with at least first dose, meaning both NSW and Victoria are looking at being somewhere between 90-95% fully vaxxed (again, over 16s) by the end of November.
The 70% mark here will still mean restrictions. We won’t be able to visit regional Victoria and restaurants can only open to outside patrons – but there may be some changes to those rules, the premier is due to talk on that today. Probably as this post is published. 80% will follow around 10 days later, which might just be in time for my leave. Just a few days but if I can get away from Melbourne for the first time in six months for 1 – 2 nights, that will be special.
So we could see international travel through Victoria reopen by the end of November. And if we can come back without having to quarantine, well that means that I MIGHT consider a short trip next year.
The Australian Capital Territory is winning the vax race here, with around NINETY SEVEN PER CENT having received their first dose. If we are all heading this way, and it seems we are, well that’s good news for travel in Australia.
At the same time, one reason adding to the vax numbers is mandates that are in force. By Friday basically unless you worked from home you had to have received your first dose of the vaccine to continue any work that involved working with others. A LOT of the workforce hasn’t been able to work since August with only five reasons to leave your home – grocery shopping, one person per house per day, ESSENTIAL work – banks, healthcare settings, supermarkets and food outlets for take away and delivery, and a couple of other places, you can leave the house to get tested, to receive the vaccine and the final reason is for exercise. You cannot at present go further than 15km from your home. It was 5km for much of this lockdown.
We are going to live with Covid. There will be, I believe, localised lockdowns if really necessary, but I think it’s going to be very hard to impose these on anyone going forward. As much as people want to protect others and themselves, they are just at the point where they can’t do it any longer.
As for the vaccine mandate, I am not comfortable with it. In care settings for sure, in my job 100% I agree everyone must be vaccinated. We will still have restrictions going forwards including masks indoors. It’s sensible. I don’t know how to take people who genuinely don’t want to get vaccinated. I know people and they have a genuine fear of what might happen. There is a portion of the population who simply won’t get vaccinated, and the question is – is that their right? And I say, yes it is. Although I’m a bit on the fence. But if over 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, and as on of the people in that 90%, if we make it safer for the other 10%, that’s fine by me and I think that’s a fair price to pay to live in a free, fair society where we don’t force people into putting something into their bodies that they don’t want to.
If hesitancy was so high that we could only make 60%, well then I would support a mandate. But don’t tell people they can’t participate in the economy. That’s not right to me.
The 11 – 15 year olds of Australia have only be able to get the vaccine for a month. It’s already at 58% first dose. So we will have extremely good coverage. I’ve checked the data from Israel that some say proves the vaccine is ineffective, but to me it’s the exact opposite. Over 60s who are unvaccinated are more than THREE TIMES more likely to die of Covid. And SIXTEEN TIMES more likely than those who have received the third (booster) dose.
The world, and Australia, cannot continue to live like we have over the last two years. Especially Australia. Vaccines are not perfect. But they make a difference. And new drugs are on the market now that can treat Covid once someone has it far more effectively than anything we had 12-18 months ago.
We have to manage it, but we have to live our lives too, and get back to doing the things we love. Including travel.
Thanks for reading my ramblings as they were today. Take care – and May the Journey Never End!