COVID is finally at our door

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
We have known COVID was coming to WA for two years.
Camera IconWe have known COVID was coming to WA for two years. Credit: ADREES LATIF/Reuters

If all goes to plan, in just over a week the borders of Fortress WA will come down and people will once again be able to travel freely in and out of our State.

Families will be reunited, worker shortages will be filled, and holiday hotspots will once again be brimming to capacity — albeit a socially distanced one.

I feel equal parts fear and hope for our new way of living.

Yet the thing that strikes me most about Western Australians’ reactions to the border opening is the sense of surprise it’s actually happening, and a newfound sense of urgency to suddenly prepare.

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Early on in 2020 the State Government chose an elimination strategy against COVID-19, a choice that meant life in WA largely continued as normal.

We’ve lived life without extended lockdowns, mask rules or extended gathering size restrictions while the pandemic has raged across the world.

While people have been lamenting their inability to hop over to Bali in the past two years, they seem to have forgotten that in keeping “us” in, we are also keeping “them” out.

WA is about to go through its own version of the mass infections other countries experienced in March and April 2020 — almost 20 months ago.

Italy averaged about 800 deaths a day in April 2020, the US was averaging more than 2000 daily — with the latter recording upwards of 30,000 new cases a day during the same period.

Somewhere along the way, people in WA forgot we’ve been keeping “them” out until we had a vaccine, medicines stocks to treat the virus, and staff and bed capacity at our hospitals to cope when mass infections begin.

We were never going to dodge this bullet.

It would be naïve to ever think we could ride out this pandemic from behind Fortress WA’s walls and wait until the rest of the world had “learned to live with it” long enough for the virus to be over.

COVID is finally at our door.

It crept in the side entry at Christmas and let us know just how quickly its younger siblings can now spread.

Other countries’ governments have attempted — and then failed or succeeded — in their own strategies to eliminate or minimise the effects of the virus.

Our own State and Federal governments say they’ve looked at these overseas examples to see what works and what doesn’t.

I hope they have been paying attention.

I hope they’ve used the world’s experiences from the past two years to make a cheat-sheet through these next steps we were always going to have to take.

We are lucky the virus is coming when vaccination rates are high and treatments are available.

But I won’t tempt fate by saying more than that.

I hope we never have to experience the same heartbreak our overseas family and friends had to go through.

As some of us still know, we are all in this together.

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