Our second lockdown in Melbourne had been more depressing than the first. Caused, no doubt, by the daily reports of more and more cases, more people in hospital, more patients in intensive care and more people, mostly but not all very old, dying. The numbers go up and down but thus far have all been in the hundreds. Today we had 357 new cases and five deaths. There are forty-two people in Intensive Care Units.
It’s depressing that it all seems to have come from breaches of infection control systems in the hotels used to quarantine returning overseas travellers. Plenty of people playing the blame game; including government departments and of course the Opposition amplified by journalists.
Listening to the Premier’s daily media conference I am contemptuous of journalists. They berate him for imposing too many / not enough restrictions; question every complaint no matter how trivial about the impact of health orders – paying no heed to the adage hard cases make bad law; expect him and the Chief Medical Officer to know of every incident, every nuance of the new arrangements and always put the most alarmist spin on anything that is said. Told, over and over, that we have sufficient PPE in Victoria, the headline is PPE reserves under pressure. Everything is a crisis.
On the other hand I’m reassured by the Premier, and by the Chief Medical Officer who answer every question with a calm politeness that I couldn’t manage. They started out being at pains to not blame people not complying with restrictions; a mild ‘some people are not complying‘ resulted in headlines Premier Blames the Public! But now, the statistics are so damning even journalists can see that one of our big problems is just that. People not isolating when they should, and worse, not co-operating with contract tracers. It was good to see a couple of weeks ago, that Neil Mitchell at 3AW finally decided to get behind the Government’s attempts to ensure compliance.
In addition to the reckless non-compliers, the other major problem is the number of casual and part-time workers who are asymptomatic and moving between different workplaces in search of a liveable wage. This is especially the case in nursing homes which are now in real trouble. Precarious, flexible, low-paid work is exposed for the weakness in our system that it is. The State Government is offering financial incentives for these workers to stay home while they are tested and waiting for results but so far the Federal Government has done nothing. Paid pandemic leave should certainly be a right for all workers.
In this environment I have been making the best of it – and having fun with masks. At the start of July it looked pretty obvious that we were going to have to wear them; there were lots of ads on social media and we were told it was a good idea to wear them in enclosed spaces. I saw this website on Instagram and , having checked them out, we ordered some. This was on the week-end of 4-5 July. As soon as he placed the order Joe got an email thanking him, and telling us that the maker would start on them straight away – personalised service indeed. They came quickly.
Here I am demonstrating one on the day we got them, 7 July. I liked the playful pattern and the colour on this one – matched my glasses.
At that stage I was a little self conscious, and hadn’t worked out putting my glasses over the top of the mask kept them from fogging up. Here’s Joe testing his more stylish, masculine, number.
I wore it out for the first time when we walked to Collingwood Children’s Farm cafe to meet Eleanor and give her one, the next day. This was on the 8th of July, the day before Melbourne went into lockdown for a second time. Eleanor was happy with the feel of it.
But the puppies weren’t for her. She chose the red and blue bottlebrush, which I wore out for a walk, on the 13th of July, in the Edinburgh Gardens. I think I look like something out of an episode of a Miss Marple or Midsummer Murders television series.
Accentuated by the hat I think. Linda said she was not so keen on the matchy-matchy look. And Pauline said I needed red glasses to match – at a thousand dollars a pop I think not.
Out for another walk with Linda, on the 14th, I tested my green outfit and another version of the mask. Nicely colour-co-ordinated, and not to matchy matchy.
I even prevailed on her to wear one, but by the time we got to the end of Bennett Street she’d taken it off. They do impede your breathing a bit. I was worried this was only me and am pleased that it’s a common response to wearing a mask.
I was now wearing one every time I left the house, although at this stage they weren’t compulsory. I’m pleased I had the practice; learning from it that I needed to wear a beanie to keep everything neat behind my ears – glasses, hearing aids, mask – and learning how to breathe properly. And not feeling self-conscious. Even though at this stage hardly anyone was wearing them outside. I did when Joe and I went walking along the Darebin Creek on the 16th of July, about which I’ve blogged here. We drove to Alphington Station and walked from there. This was before we were told we had to stay in our own LGAs; so we couldn’t do that today. It was freezing and after I took my mask off briefly (to deal with a runny nose!) I quickly put it back on to keep my face warm!
Finally, from midnight Wednesday the 22nd of July, masks were made compulsory whenever you leave the house. A couple of us put up pictures on our What’s Left What’s App chat line. Here’s Yehudi, who said I like my new look. Not sure why everyone changes direction when they see me.
I said that while it was a very stylish combination, he looked as though he was going to rob a bookie at the racetrack. Here’s the selfie I put up – of my blue outfit. People thought I looked about to climb Mount Everest. It has been cold this month and this combo keeps me warm.
Eleanor has bought some silk-lined masks – better for our skin she says – and has promised me one. They look good and I’m keen to try one.
It was strange going out for a walk on Thursday of this week, the 24th of July and seeing everyone wearing masks. Lots of them were blue and white surgical ones, but I liked looking at the more interesting cloth ones and comparing styles. There are lots of different ones.
A note on social media has been widely circulated: Notable that after about twenty seconds of whinging, Melbournians have emerged in public today sporting their boutique, fair trade or home made vintage single origin perfectly colour coordinated and stylish face masks as if we had always worn them.
Here’s hoping that our mask wearing, which both the Premier and Chief Medical Officer say represents our fourth stage of restrictions (in response to the media’s insistence that we should close even more businesses and livelihoods) works to control this insidious virus.