Shepparton News

Out of the tunnel, into the sun — again

- MY WORD John Lewis john.lewis@ sheppnews.com.au ● John Lewis is a journalist at The News.

Yesterday was like coming up for fresh air and taking off a space suit after weeks stuck in a stale, floating tin can.

Spring was already here. I already knew the buds on the grapevine were out and there was a first little f lower on the almond tree and I could hear bees and frogs.

But it all seemed unreal. I had watched it all through my fishbowl helmet and saw a grey onedimensi­onal world happening out there.

Yesterday I took off the helmet and looked and listened again.

The marigolds were a screaming orange, the little almond flower was a delicious pink and the birds and bees were deafening.

To put it bluntly, these past few weeks have been a bloody grind.

As lockdowns go, this was one of the longest, most tedious and mentally debilitati­ng we’ve experience­d.

As the list of exposure sites grew, there was a creeping hopelessne­ss. When will this end?

To see the streets and shops of Shepparton once again deserted was soul destroying.

For those under the strictest quarantine­s it must have been hairtearin­gly awful.

And yet, people did the right thing.

They didn’t march in the streets or disobey public health rules.

They just got on with the damned frustratin­g job of staying home.

But even more importantl­y, they did it with good grace and kindness.

Through all the tedium and despondenc­e we were buoyed by the selfless acts of others — frontline heath workers, food supply volunteers and simple gestures of generosity from children leaving drawings and lollies for neighbours, to anonymous grocery deliveries and offers of help.

This all goes to show that when under pressure, the majority of people are essentiall­y good at heart and care about each other.

This is the thing to hold on to and remember during this COVID

journey. Because it’s not over yet.

As I write this, the communitie­s of Ballarat and Albury are entering the same tunnel from which the good people of Shepparton have just emerged.

There may be more next week. Yesterday there were 514 new cases in Victoria, 4370 active cases in the state.

There is a way to get off this rollercoas­ter and avoid the

lockdown tunnel.

A little pavement sign outside Mooroopna’s Royal Mail Hotel sums it up neatly.

The sign says: The Only Way Out! Get The Jab An That!

It has the insistent bark of a Donald Trump message — but this one’s based on science not disinfecta­nt.

Until 70 per cent of people are fully vaccinated we are going to stay in this tunnel loop.

This is where the government, either state or federal — probably both — needs to step up.

We need 24-hour vaccinatio­n hubs and scores more Jabba buses, not just for regional and remote areas but for metropolit­an ones too.

We need an army of trained vaccinator­s — not just doctors, nurses and pharmacist­s.

We need personal antigen COVID-testing kits available in pharmacies — even supermarke­ts.

Social media, television, newspaper and leafleting campaigns for non-English speaking people.

There are probably a thousand other things we need to live with COVID permanentl­y in our world.

Finally, when we do reach the magic 70 per cent, there is one thing Australia and probably every other country will need to stop our general hospitals getting jammed with the unvaccinat­ed — dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.

That’s my roadmap.

But beware — it comes from an alien who’s just taken off his helmet.

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 ??  ?? Ain’t that the truth! News photograph­er Rodney Braithwait­e spotted this sign outside Mooroopna’s Royal Mail Hotel.
Ain’t that the truth! News photograph­er Rodney Braithwait­e spotted this sign outside Mooroopna’s Royal Mail Hotel.

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