Location: Canberra, Australia
Timeline: March 2020
Now that I have your attention…
I have received some correspondence saying, “Rachel, you aren’t blogging like you normally do!” And I have to say that on this trip thus far I have just been sooo laz…busy. So so incredibly busy (she writes in her pajama pants at noon).
Ok, truthfully, I HAVE been working to build a busy life here in Australia for our family. Outside of Chris going to work we have enrolled in swim lessons, GymbaROO (gymnastics) lessons, preschool for Lizzy, and exercise classes for me. We’ve even been invited into a few homes for dinner, although I can’t say anyone has invited us back. Hmmm…
So I started one other blog about a little trip we took to the beach and I was preparing to send it out when the whole world shifted. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I bet you’re all sitting there stroking your pile of toilet paper. And it suddenly seemed inappropriate to talk about beach vacations (although I still plan to send that one out later).
So I thought I should address what it has been like for us here.
It has been surreal to watch the USA change so much from afar. You are all having this collective experience that we are missing out on and, until recently, we were largely living our normal lives and going out into public.
But don’t worry, our time has come.
When Canberra notified its citizens of it’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, they went to great lengths to stress that the patient came from outside the area.
I, having watched a great deal of USA news in the previous days, started wondering aloud if we needed to close schools or malls. It went something like this:
Me: “So we got our first confirmed case of COVID-19. Do you think they will close schools?”
Preschool teacher: “Oh no, that came from outside of the area. I’m sure we won’t need to close schools.”
Me: “Well, COVID has made its way here. I’m buying my kid’s Easter supplies before the shops close.”
Shop Clerk: “Oh no, they wouldn’t do that here. We have been following all of the hygiene guidelines. I’m sure our store will still be open at Easter.”
And so it went that I ran around Canberra bothering people and receiving quizzical looks.
The Canberra government has continued to reassure our city that the next 9 confirmed cases also came from travellers.
But as of Sunday, March 22nd, the cases in our city jumped from 9 to 19 and people started to take notice.
At the time of this writing our state, the ACT, has 44 confirmed cases but, so far, no evidence of community transmission.
For weeks the Australian government also reassured people that schools would not be closing. The rationale being that many necessary people work in the heath sector and they could not be burdened with caring for their children at this critical time.
But, like the rest of the world, COVID cases in Australia have climbed quickly. As of March 1st there were only 27 cases in all of Australia. As of today, March 25th there are 2,364 (and I’m sure there will be more by the time this reaches your inbox).
P.S. This map is a great resource from Johns Hopkins University for tracking the spread of COVID-19 (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html)
So Australia has taken the following measures:
**Borders are closed to outsiders. Foreigners can no longer travel to Australia.
This has had a huge impact on Chris’ job as they were expecting many other USA coworkers to come work on the antenna. Suddenly Chris is the only person from JPL here for this job!
**No gatherings outdoors of more than 500 people and no gatherings indoors of more than 100 people.
**Closures of non-essential businesses including: pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos, food courts, open homes, beauty salons, and religious gathering places.
**Restaurants are now limited to delivery and take-out only. No dine in.
**As of this writing, shopping centers are STILL open.
**Schools have closed, sort of.
Amid a flurry of confusion the Australian government announced schools were going “pupil-free” on Tuesday, March 24th for teachers to prepare for distance learning.
Then there was talk that school was reopening for the rest of the term, but will close next term. Or that school was closing now and will open next term. It’s been odd.
Ultimately the government said they wanted parents to keep children home if at all possible, but no child will be turned away from school if they show up. They are trying to offer childcare to essential workers.
Interestingly, preschool does not fall into the school closure bracket at this time and I could send Lizzy, but I won’t. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy for me to keep her home.
So now we are in the same boat as many of you. Stuck inside our home with little wildlings and no end in sight.
Fortunately Chris’ job is classified as an essential service and he is allowed to continue to work.
People have asked us, “Can you get home if you need to?” And the answer is: we don’t know. We don’t know if many flights are leaving Australia and, if they are, can we even get on one? Would we even want to drag our children, who can simultaneously pick their noses and suck their fingers, through an airport at this time? It doesn’t seem like a great idea.
At the moment we are living life here. It’s in a small 2-bedroom apartment with a fraction of our normal stuff, but we will be fine. Every day brings new information. We will all see what the next month holds.
Just know that we miss you all and worry about/think about/pray about you.
We wish you all immune systems of steel and adequate toilet paper.
“Australia’s borders officially closed as coronavirus pandemic escalates.” 7 News. 20 Mar. 2020. https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/australia-it-was-a-tough-week-but-we-made-it-together-c-754009
“Latest news on COVID-19 in the ACT.” ACT Government Health. 25 Mar. 2020. https://health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/latest-news. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.
Lawson, Kirsten. “Coronavirus: PM moves to expand shutdown to more activities. The Canberra Times. 24 Mar. 2020. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6695405/shutdown-extended-to-more-activities/?cs=14329. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.
The Hon Scott Morrison MP. “Update on Coronavirus Measures: Media Statement. Prime Minister of Australia. 22 Mar. 2020. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-220320. Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.