Australia

A timely wake-up reminder that this pandemic is far from over

It was children's books that took us to the local shopping centre. We'd spent lockdown diligently practising our reading, supporting independent bookstores with online orders, but now, with the kids' appetites for words bordering on voracious, I needed supplies, in bulk and cheap.

We'd spent lockdown diligently practising our reading, supporting independent bookstores with online orders.

We'd spent lockdown diligently practising our reading, supporting independent bookstores with online orders.Credit:Maica

Three months ago, I left a parcel unopened for four days on the verandah until I was sure it was safe to open. But at the weekend, my son and I strolled through the shopping centre, stopping for lunch, trying on clothes and picking up toys as we forgot the continuing threat of coronavirus.

On the way home, I picked up my daughter from a play date. Another mother and I stood in the icy wind and chatted as our kids demanded 10 minutes longer. The possible consequences of that interaction cost me two nights' sleep. What if my inability to resist cheap consumerism infected someone else's family with coronavirus? Having made the choice to shop, why hadn't I just stayed in the car to pick up my child?

I'd spent lockdown gobsmacked by people crowding into shopping centres under the guise of essential shopping. Now I'd done the same.

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The rate of community transmission in Victoria should force us all to consider the realities of every interaction. The shock of the pandemic may well have subsided, but in many ways the risk has increased.

We're tired of restrictions, no longer scared of the virus. Some people even refuse to be tested. Just as the levels of cases with an unknown source are increasing.

Victoria reported 77 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the state to 415. Twenty people were in hospital, five more than reported the day before, and four were in intensive care.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, says that with the current levels of transmission, there is "absolutely an expectation" more people will die. Of the new cases, many are in the known hotspots, but some are not.

Living outside the 10 locked-down postcodes does not mean we are protected from the next outbreak. The bag of shopping still sitting on my kitchen floor is a reminder of the potential snowball effect of one person's actions.

And a timely wake-up reminder that this pandemic is far from over. For any of us.

Robyn Grace is The Age's deputy night editor.

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