Within living memory, no event has forced change on human behaviour quite like the coronavirus. 

World travellers have had their wings clipped. All that is left from carefree holiday travels are old photos from a previous era. Before the turmoil began 18 months ago, the promise of a trip overseas at least every year was a reliable punctuation in many people’s lives, including my own. 

Looking back now, this entitlement appears as something different, like an irrepressible compulsion. The sky was so busy, at any moment, more than a million of us were hurtling a mile high, crisscrossing the planet in silver tubes.   

More tragically, forced separations have created anguish for many families who cannot touch or meet, even for final farewells. There is only Zoom. We exist in a reality gap because not many Australians are personally acquainted with Covid victims, but stories from other countries paint a different scene. 

For example, a local pastrycook here with a successful cottage industry, suddenly, had to rush home to Argentina because both his parents were infected. His father, breathing by ventilator, has since died. He was fortunate to be able to leave and be with him.

We smugly think we are safe in Fortress Australia, but that landscape is changing very quickly. The Delta variant, for instance, is said to be 40 times more infectious and can be shared by strangers passing in the street or a mall, and the NSW government is currently fighting a rearguard action. 

The Cov-2 virus seems to be mutating into a really dangerous enemy. If it keeps leaking out of hotel quarantine, our unvaccinated population is like dry tinder to a bushfire. We are left high and dry by a government that couldn’t get it together and missed the golden moment of opportunity. 

Can we be saved by an army general?  Hopefully the government is starting to wake up. It has declared that vaccines have been ordered for later this year, but right now, it is frustrating for those who want to vaccinate but are not eligible. We need to be vaccinated NOW, for our own sake, also for the common good. Later might be too late if this thing spreads quickly. Vaccination has a few problems for sure. I had a sore arm for a week or ten days, but was reminded that COVID is a thousand times worse.  

Confusion is arising from defeatist messages by some of our leaders, who say we have to live alongside this virus, just like we do with the flu. 

After all the sacrifices (most) people are going through to keep the community safe, how are we supposed to cop that? Mixed messages and serial lockdown fatigue must be taking a toll. Some people with symptoms and contact are not coming forward. Covid conspiracy theories add to the mix for non- compliance. 

The many mixed messages include denial of the condition, to scaremongering of the vaccines. It can get pretty bizarre. One Dr. Sherri Tenpenny has claimed that the coronavirus vaccine is actively magnetizing people, stating in her testimony, “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”

What can we do to stay sane? 

A neighbour remarked over our boundary fence, ‘If you can’t go out, then go in.” 

Even though we feel so inconvenienced by our groundings, social distancing is hardly a new turn in human history. In one episode of the endlessly recurring bubonic plague, over three hundred years ago, genius Isaac Newton was isolating in his country garden when he observed an apple fall from a tree and be pulled down to the earth. His forced isolation endowed us with the law of gravity. A time of stopping can also be a time of creativity. 

Again on the plus side, an unexpected positive aspect of social distancing has been a reduction in seasonal coughs, colds and flu. So maybe we are getting lessons in how to live amongst ourselves more simply. Customs like hand-shaking and hugging are optional without giving offence. 

Stripped of our usual distractions, we are stuck in the same zone of time and place, seemingly without end. We cannot so easily escape the confronting reality of the night that follows day, day after day. That knowledge is enough to turn anyone into an insomniac. ‘What if I can’t go to sleep tonight, just like last night?’  The shifting landscape’s anxieties have led into a sleep disorder known as ‘coronasomia’. 

The cure is VACCINATE.

Sweet dreams.

Dr David Miller

Brunswick Heads.

Dr Miller is a retired GP who writes on health and travel. 

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