Health

Isolation Challenge for Island Life Down Under in Australia

In response to the article we published with entertainer Andy Reay click here on the subject of what do you do during Self Isolation, we have started to receive messages from many happy people as you will see.

We have had an interesting email from Jo Coghlan in Western Australia telling us how the island of Australia has now been divided by the threat of COVID-19 and how people are coping in an Island within an Island 

For those readers who would also like to share their experiences please email  kyreniacommentator@cyprusscene.com and we will try to publish them on our website and in our weekly online e-newspaper. Let’s try to make the world happy again by sharing good news.

For those people who are wanting to return from the UK to the TRNC or go from the TRNC to the UK please go to Facebook page “TRNC Residents trying to get homeclick here and register your details as directed.

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Readers Mail….
From Jo Coghlan….
Western Australia….

 At 11.59 pm on 5th April 2020, Western Australia closed its borders to the rest of Australia and the term ‘an island within an island’ was coined. This was the WA state government’s response to slowing the spread of COVID-19. While allowing many exemptions, this hard border prevents anybody (even West Australians) from entering WA from other states by land, air or sea. It appears to be working.

An international travel ban is in place for all Australians but many are still returning from overseas and must complete 14 days’ quarantine in a hotel in the city of arrival. West Australian’s arriving in Sydney, for example, are obliged to spend 14 days in quarantine there and then another 14 days after flying home to Perth, WA’s capital.

Passengers on cruise ships have had a unique experience. The vessel Vasco da Gama was at Phuket on course for London when plans changed due to the pandemic. It returned to Perth’s port, Fremantle, at the end of March with 950 passengers and 550 crew on board. Fortunately there were no reports of coronavirus and overseas travellers were immediately flown back to their countries of origin and 600 eastern states passengers accommodated in Perth hotels for their 14 days of quarantine.

The 200 Western Australians on board were lucky. They were ferried to Rottnest Island, a holiday destination about 20 kilometres off the coast and spent their quarantine in chalets, units and hostel rooms. Although confined, with tantalising beaches off limits, they were treated to quality food, the fresh breezes of the Indian Ocean and, no doubt, the occasional visit from an inquisitive quokka, the friendly marsupials endemic to the island. This was the ultimate experience: quarantine on a tiny island, off ‘an island within an island’!

Passengers on another cruise ship, the Artania, were not so fortunate. With no Australians on board, it was originally turned away from Fremantle when it sought refuge but then reported sickness on board. Keen not to have a repeat of the disastrous consequences when the Ruby Princess allowed passengers who had been exposed to coronavirus to disembark in Sydney several weeks ago, the WA premier, Mark McGowan, finally allowed the Artania to dock and 50 people were taken to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. Most of the remaining passengers were flown home to Europe. Currently the ship is still in port but is due to leave next week.

Western Australia has nine regional areas and we are not permitted to travel outside our designated region without an exemption. Most people are observing the ruling, avoiding a hefty fine, and common sense is prevailing. But this was problematic at Easter when many West Australians traditionally flock to the south west of the state and coastal areas. It was a very different Easter for many. The intrastate travel restrictions appear to be working and have been particularly important to protect vulnerable Aboriginal communities in the north of the state.

Within our local community restrictions are in place but we go about our lives, albeit warily. The mantra is “stay at home” but we’re allowed to leave our house to shop for essentials (we’re getting our groceries delivered when we can), exercise, go to work (many people are working from home), attend medical appointments and the pharmacy, and give care and support to others in their homes. With winter months ahead, there’s a real threat of other viruses exacerbating the crisis so we’ve had our flu vaccinations and we’re far more vigilant about washing our hands than ever before.

Closure of playgrounds                         My Husband Peter ‘isolating’ at a local beach

Children are on school holidays and parents have had to find creative ways to occupy them since all usual attractions are closed.  Even playgrounds are off limits. The weather was unusually warm over Easter (Perth reached 40 degrees Celsius, the hottest on record) and naturally people sought relief at police-patrolled beaches. There was a real threat of beach closure if social distancing was ignored but most people were sensible.

We’ve been walking in the cool of the evening in bushland or parks away from people. But we’ve been warned not to be complacent and our local council has installed electronic boards at the entrance to all park areas reminding us to adhere to social distancing and ‘exercise then leave’.

Electronic signs near local parks

Just about everything’s closed, of course, but restaurants and cafes have reinvented themselves, serving take-a-way food and doing home delivery. And we’re all learning how to survive under the new regime.  Online teaching and learning has taken off and suddenly the conferencing platform, Zoom, has lived up to its name. If we didn’t know about podcasts, we do now, and what about all those creative people out there entertaining us with their YouTube videos of their antics while isolating? And we’re learning a whole new vocabulary. Terms like ‘flattening the curve’, ‘contact tracing’, ‘patient zero’, ‘asymptomatic’ and ‘epidemiology’ punctuate our conversations with ease. And ‘panic buying’ will be forever synonymous with toilet paper.  Laughter may not be the best medicine for curing COVID-19 but it certainly helps.

We’re fortunate to be living in a country with strong, considered leadership and, in particular, the ‘island’ state of Western Australia. Our federal and state governments are working together and the usual political sniping from opposition parties has been temporarily shelved. The potential for economic crisis and hardship as a result of job and income losses was recognised early in the pandemic and financial support for families, businesses, renters and vulnerable people was formally legislated and implemented very quickly.

As of 13 April, Australia has suffered 61 deaths and 6322 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the majority of which were acquired overseas including onboard cruise ships.  Western Australia has 6 deaths and 517 cases, 68 of these from overseas passengers and crew from the cruise ship Artania. But with the measures in place to slow the spread of the virus, the number of new cases has trickled and the curve is indeed flattening. Modeling shows we could have had 30,000 cases in WA by now had strict measures not been taken. But the biggest threat is still Australians returning from overseas and restrictions may continue for at least the next six months in WA.

Meanwhile, we sit tight and wait for a vaccine, knowing how fortunate we are to live on ‘an island within an island’ and hope that the world has learnt some lessons.