For 3 days, I lived within the most locked down region in Australia.
I sleep in Adelaide, South Australia , and for those 3 days, we had a number of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions currently in situ round the world.
It all started on a warm Sunday afternoon last week, when a lady in her 80s tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital emergency department.
Two others then tested positive, one among them the woman’s child. By Monday, there have been 17 confirmed cases, all close contacts of the lady and her relations .
Health authorities asked people living across South Australia to figure from home.
Health officials said the lady contracted the virus from an individual who worked as a cleaner at a medical hotel in Adelaide. The hotel is housing returned travelers from overseas who need to quarantine.
On Wednesday, it had been revealed that a watchman who worked at a quarantine hotel and at a pizza bar in Adelaide’s northwest area tested positive.
A worker at a special quarantine hotel who told authorities he visited the shop to shop for a pizza also tested positive.
The number of cases linked to the cluster hit 23 with 7 more suspected cases.
Swift measures taken
At lunchtime on Wednesday, Nov. 18, Steven Marshall, the premier of South Australia , announced drastic action would be taken in response to the growing number of cases.
We were told South Australia would enter total lockdown for six days from midnight that evening.
All schools would close apart from essential workers’ children.
Restaurants, cafés, food courts, pubs, and takeaway food outlets would all be shuttered.
All nonessential shops would be closed. Care facilities for older adults would be locked down. Gyms would be closed.
Weddings and funerals would be banned. Regional travel wouldn’t be permitted.
Only one person per household would be allowed to go away the house once each day for essential tasks, like grocery shopping.
We were instructed that masks should be worn outside the house in the least times and no outdoor exercise would be allowed.
A shock to the system
This came as quite shock to some, as Adelaide had lived for months with zero COVID-19 cases and hardly any evidence of the planet wide pandemic surrounding our corner of the world.
Before the lockdown, cafés were buzzing, children were at college , people had returned to the workplace, and grocery shopping was easy.
It was unusual to ascertain people wearing a mask.
By Wednesday afternoon, that each one changed.
Despite authorities urging people to avoid panic buying, they rushed to the shops and cleared out the shelves of loo paper, pasta, fruit, and meat.
Stores quickly ran out of masks and other people took to social media, asking friends and neighbors if they knew of any shops with supplies available.
Why the action was taken
For an outsider looking in, this might sound an odd spectacle. All of this for fewer than 25 confirmed cases?
But as an entire , the general public was supportive of the choice . We saw our neighbors in Victoria enter a tough lockdown for 112 days to urge their COVID-19 numbers in check .
We had seen their success. Nowhere else within the world has been ready to control a second wave quite like Victoria did.
In August, Victoria’s 7-day average of daily new cases hit 533. Toward the top of October, they emerged from their lengthy lockdown with no new cases.
We’d seen that this will work, and that we were hoping it might for us, but during a shorter period of your time .
The 6-day lockdown was described as a “circuit breaker.” that’s , if we enter hard and fast with significant restrictions now, we’ll get the cluster in check before it spreads.
After the 6 days, we were told there would be an extra 8 days of restrictions, but the principles would likely be less severe.
“Time is of the essence. and that we must act swiftly and decisively. We cannot wait to ascertain how bad this becomes,” Marshall said when announcing the lockdown.
I called Dr. William Schaffner, an communicable disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, to inform him about our new restrictions. He was amazed at the speed and severity of the lockdown.
“Wow. that’s severe on the idea of 20 cases. Twenty new cases occur within the hour in Nashville alone,” he said.
“This would be… impossible to impose, to even suggest, here within the us ,” Schaffner added. “I’m in great admiration of the community solidarity that has been described as I even have learned about what’s happened in Australia and New Zealand. People have a way that if we do that together and roll in the hay during a very firm, serious, comprehensive fashion, that’s the thanks to go.”
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But the truth of life in lockdown isn’t without its challenges.
I have an autoimmune disease and am during a high-risk category, so my husband and that i are being careful.
On Sunday, once we first heard about the cluster, we went and purchased masks. On his thanks to work on Monday, taking note of the radio and hearing the amount of cases was on the increase , my husband rotated and decided to figure from home.
We got the groceries we would have liked early, anticipating that things could change quickly. It proved to be an honest decision.
The announcement of a COVID-19 lockdown created panic buying of loo paper and other items at stores in Adelaide, South Australia. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Pratt
Others hung out within the hours before lockdown lining up at grocery stores. Others donned their masks on the primary day of the lockdown, braving the shops to ascertain if they might find toilet tissue .
Meanwhile, my friends with children were facing their own challenges.
Anna Lacey has two children ages 6 and three . For her, the toughest a part of the lockdown was attempting to figure from home with children around.
“It may be a juggle with two working parents and two children reception , but the youngsters will enjoy a while with our third parent (the television) and that we have gotten puzzles, coloring books, and other activities,” she told me. “To be honest, the toughest thing isn’t having the ability to travel for a walk, my children are energetic beings and not having that outlet are going to be challenging.”
Across the town , Hannah Ward and her two sons ages 8 and 5 were facing similar challenges.
“Keeping the youngsters occupied will probably be the foremost challenging part. I even have two very active boys who rarely sit still,” she said.
It’s also been hard not seeing older relations .
“I’m worried for my dad who lives on his own. Mum gave up the ghost a couple of months ago and pop is stuck during a house filled with memories of her,” Ward said. “With the restrictions being so tight, it’ll be hard to stay an eye fixed on him and for him to stay himself busy. I’ll be calling and texting him more regularly and that i might try a virtual Netflix night, too.”
Public supports the actions
Despite the challenges, my friends, like many South Australians, welcomed the restrictions because the right decision.
No one took to the streets protesting the lockdown. nobody questioned the wisdom of our chief health officer.
South Australians just got on with it.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric communicable disease at the University of California Davis, said restrictions like this is able to be much harder to implement within the us .
“We’ve seen numerous protests within the U.S. with much less extreme measures that are implemented in communities,” Blumberg told me. “So it’s difficult on behalf of me to imagine that occurring within the U.S.”
“It depends on your values,” he added. “If you actually want to avoid widespread transmission, then it’s natural to act aggressively. If, on the opposite hand, you’re willing to simply accept a particular level of transmission you would possibly not want to require these measures like that.”
The lie that started it all
On the primary day of lockdown, Adelaide awakened to good news: No new cases. A promising start.
But then on the second day, things took a stimulating turn.
It was revealed that one among the people involved within the outbreak lied to contact tracing teams.
Authorities said the person who told them he had quickly gone into the pizzeria was actually an employee who had worked regular shifts there.
That eased officials’ concerns that the person had contracted the virus after only being within the restaurant for a couple of minutes.
“To say i’m fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement,” Marshall said. “The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state during a very difficult situation. His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups, and is totally , and utterly unacceptable.”
A single lie around an individual visiting a pizza place sent the whole state into a harsh lockdown. South Australia’s leaders and health authorities weren’t impressed.
“That clearly changes the circumstances, and had this person been truthful to the contact tracing teams, we might not have gone into a 6-day lockdown,” said South Australia commissioner Grant Stevens.
On Friday, barely 2 days into what was meant to be a 6-day lockdown, South Australians watched in disbelief as Marshall, along side the commissioner and chief public health officer, began to right away reduce a number of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions within the world.
“I won’t let the disgraceful conduct of one individual to stay South Australia in these breaker conditions at some point longer than what’s necessary,” Marshall said.
The premier then repealed lockdown orders, effective midnight Saturday.
Better safe than sorry
And even as quickly because it happened, we were allowed bent exercise in family groups.
We were told schools could open on Monday.
It was clarified that masks outside the house weren’t mandatory but still encouraged.
The health authorities still wanted a while to accurately trace any contacts of the one that lied, but they said they didn’t want to stay us in lockdown any more than was necessary.
South Australians had many questions.
How could this have happened?
How could a whole state enter lockdown on the idea of 1 lie told by one person performing at a pizza shop?
But many still felt it had been better to be safe than sorry which health authorities had made the proper option to enter a tough lockdown.
“They made the choice supported the knowledge that that they had at the time,” Lachie Bishop, a farmer at Teal Flat, east of Adelaide, told me.
For some, it’d seem the South Australia lockdown was an overreaction. But we’ll never skills many lives we’d have saved by staying reception and wearing masks.
Even if just for 3 days, the people of South Australia survived quite nicely living in one among the foremost locked down regions of the earth .