Lockdown in Greater Sydney

Wentworth Emporium

Sydney, or more correctly “Greater Sydney” is in lockdown again. Greater Sydney includes the commutable urbanised areas that fringe the sprawling metropolis of Sydney. Not extending as far as Newcastle, but encompassing Wollongong, and Shellharbour to the south, the Central Coast to the north and the Blue Mountain,  westward.  

The Greater Sydney area is home to 5/8th of the population of New South Wales and nearly a fifth of the total population of Australia. The lockdown came into effect on the first Saturday of the winter school holidays. Once again plans of going anywhere went out the window for many families. It was due to end on the last Friday of the holidays but it has been extended until the 16th July. Watching the numbers, we all know it will go well beyond that. 

The lockdown has been extended until at least 16 July, but given the numbers it will be well beyond that.
Source: ABC News

Like Melbourne before us.

Melbourne has had a number of stints in solo lockdown. At the time, I wondered what they were doing that was so different to the rest of the country. Was it their good public transport? Did the fact that more people were on  public transport rather than travelling solo in cars make a difference? Was it because it was colder down there and more people were indoors? 

After the last few weeks in “soft lockdown” I think I have more of an idea.  We are ignoring the stay at home orders. When the whole world was in lockdown last year it was new and scary and we all took it very seriously. But a single city tucked up in its own borders does not have the same scary overtones.  People are still way too out and about. My exercise walk route takes in Wollongong Harbour. Last weekend at around 11 AM it was business as usual! Lockdown? What lockdown? People were sitting around in the sunshine eating their takeaway gelato and sipping their take away coffee cheek by jowl with most of the population of Wollongong. No one exercising here! Stay at home orders mustn’t count on sunny days. Wollongong had not had any cases (yet) so we must be immune??

Is the soft lockdown too soft?

Soft lockdown means that many shops are still open. Pubs, restaurants, and cafes are closed for anything other than take away. Places like cinemas etc are closed, Hairdressers, and beauticians are closed. Supermarkets are open. But strangely,  the handbag shop in the mall is still open. The clothes shops are open. The vape shop. You can’t tell me these shops are essential. 

There are movement and gathering restrictions in place which have progressively tightened over the week as case numbers have continued to rise. Now only 2 people are allowed to exercise together, except those from the same household. Only one person is allowed to go shopping and only once a day. (Make that list!!)

Masks are mandatory for all people over twelve in indoor areas. And now we have moved to remote learning for students in the Greater Sydney area. This came as no real surprise. Teachers by and large have been preparing for a “just in case” scenario since last year. Many teachers have kept their online classrooms running. They have shifted their resources to accessible drives in the clouds. Learning from home was do-able.  but then…..

Queue suspenseful music: Dun-dun-der!

Learning from home becomes complicated!

About an hour after Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the Learning from Home orders for the Greater Sydney area, the NSW Department of Education was hit by a massive cyber attack. All those resources we had squirrelled away in the safe places linked to our portal were inaccessible! We were paralyised to get lessons ready. Email was down. Links to our corporate accounts for Zoom, MS Teams, the Google Suite, Microsoft365 were down. Everything we used our department user name for was turned off, as the tech bods tried to fix the damage. 

It took until Sunday to get most things working. Let’s put that in perspective. Those people worked hard! The NSW Department of Education is one of the BIGGEST educational systems in the WORLD. With over 2000 schools, more than 50,000 teachers and in excess of 800,000 students all managed by the one system, that’s a big job and I take my hat off to them for getting it up and running so quickly!

Time to get hard?

The numbers were unexpectedly a bit lower today (only 89 new cases compared to 112 on Monday), but still high enough. The Police will be more visible telling people to go home. But still the soft option persists. Come on Gladys, we don’t need handbags in a lockdown. Let’s close the other non-essential shops. Go hard! Keep people at home!

Stay home, stay safe. 

PS: Gladys must have read my post! On Saturday, 17th she announced further restrictions in place until 30/7/21. The non-essential shops are now closed. Non-urgent construction has also been shut down.

Well done Gladys!

Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 2: A Sudden Change of Plans.

Ten days into my Great Southern Road Trip many a cliche is leaping into my head

  • The best laid schemes of mice and men
  • If anything can go wrong it will
  • If life gives you lemons make lemonade
  • Every cloud has a silver lining

There are no doubt many others that would fit my current (first world) predicament! After much procrastination and side stepping in the last months of 2020, I went ahead with my road trip to Coastal Victoria and Tasmania. All was going well. My tent-erecting  skills were improving and my detailed planning was reaping benefits.

Going to the races was not on the original plan but it was fun!

And then the Premier of the State of Victoria declared an immediate snap five day lockdown due to increasing COVID numbers. EEEEEK what should I do?

I was very much enjoying the small town of Mallacoota which is just on the other side of the border, but I didn’t want to be stuck there for another 5 days! So I did what nearly everyone else in the caravan park did, I packed up in a hurry and hightailed it over the border before the midnight curfew.

Aslings Beach Eden, not on the original itinerary.

I cancelled all my upcoming accomodation in Victoria even those bookings beyond the proposed lifting of the lock down, because if there is nothing else we have learnt from the COVID pandemic, it’s that you need a Plan B, C and D! I didn’t want to risk getting into Tasmania.

I checked the Tasmanian border entry conditions and it seems that the best plan is to stay out of Victoria altogether. I am in a holding pattern, waiting to make a quick nonstop dash from the NSW border to the Port of Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. 

Jincumbilly: A unintended treat!

Lemonade aplenty. 

I have been able to make plenty of “lemonade” by staying in Eden and doing another long walk in Ben Boyd National Park, catching  up with friends in Berridale, doing the Main Range Loop Track walk in Kosciuszko National Park, and revisiting Braidwood. I have another couple of days to fill in and will drift back to the coast before making my way westward to Wagga. From here I will be able to drive directly to Melbourne on a single tank of petrol without needing to stop. 

Would not have done this either!

Off the bucket list.

In the scheme of things my inconvenience has been trivial. It’s not like I had to cancel my wedding like many Victorians were forced to do. My payments have all been refunded. The most disappointing cancellation has been the walk to Wilson’s Promontory to stay at the lighthouse. This was on my 60 for 60 list and now I won’t have the opportunity to do it before my birthday. I might have to extend the deadline!