“Quarantine – it’s not for everyone.

 North Terrace: December 18: 1100:

We’re not joking about quarantine yet. Some are still looking for excuses, scapegoats, retribution and punishment – people to blame. Targetting “the pizza guy,” “people in public housing,”  “young people,” those who live nice lifestyles, or the very poor, or “the aircrew.”

This attitude from our political and health leaders, amplified by the ever more strident, and somewhat irrelevant, media,  creates stigma and stereotypes, and it’s blunting our biggest weapon against any virus : community engagement.

I am writing this from a room at the Playford Hotel in North Terrace, Adelaide, where I started a quarantine lockdown on December 13, which has reminded me that we are creating a problem.

Being in covid lockdown in a hotel is still a novelty, greeted by surprise when people ring. “Really? Oh. I’m sorry…” is the usual response, and then a few seconds silence as the caller digests what it all means. I am not a risk to their health. I have tested negative but even if I had been positive I am inside a locked hotel room, doing my time.

My fellow 44 passengers, tired after a long flight and given no sense of engagement by immigration and police at the airport, were  greeted at the hotel by more police and health department staff in PPE to be escorted urgently and solo to their room. Guests are not given a room key and would not be able to return to their room if they absconded, nor can they leave the floor via the lift, although I presume there would be a fire escape. The aim seems to be to ensure the passenger doesn’t touch anything and pass on the virus. There is a distinct air of “us” and “them.”

There is a call at random times from “Pleece” which on the first day was quite startling. This is to ensure the guests haven’t left the room. On the first three days the police made it clear they had no interest in any conversation at all. By day six the person on the phone, who never introduces themself, morphed somehow into “this is a security call.” They wont talk and I have no idea what that means. They have  created a complete lack of trust.

The hotel provided a two page information sheet in English to accompany the two pages of “Information for international Travellers” from the Australian Government; as well as five pages from the Government of SA; and the police demanded that each person accept “Emergency Management (Cross Border Travel Number 20) (Covid-19) Direction 2020” which is a nine page copy of the Act including “citation; revocation of the previous direction; Interpretation; general provisions and Schedule 1 – Essential travellers.” We are instructed that it is prohibited to take any pictures of what’s going on. They seem nervous.

It is clear after nine months of success and failure that COVID-19 is the enemy. It will be best stopped if every person takes responsibility for their behaviour and is determined to ensure this virus doesn’t travel from them or to them.

Unfortunately little attempt has been made to motivate or engage people to be part of the larger campaign.

An example of the attitude towards community engagement by our political and working together was provided by Brad Hazzard, who told a news conference on December 18: “There has been an avalanche of complacency.”

The background shots were of hundreds of people in Sydney’s Northern Beaches lining up quietly to get tested – all wearing masks although it’s not compulsory.  They were not complacent, but they were not being trusted. Hazzard went on: “We need every person to understand you can only do so much. Complacency just cannot continue.”

The media doesn’t help. At the same media conference one journalist asked: “Will they (the aircrew) be punished?” Another asked if it was time to make mask wearing compulsory, completely ignoring the evidence of people in the lines who are ALL wearing masks.

Then the Queensland Health officer told a news conference which followed: “the first two cases are from a person from Iraq and Afghanistan.” Stigmatize. Stereotype. Fight one epedemic with another?

Our community is  wonderful resource. Remember after the Brisbane floods the “mud army?” The volunteers in bushfire areas? 

Our community is not made up of “passive victims” who cannot be trusted to assist with the prevention. Help them to make that risk assessment. Build trust, and engagement. Thank them for their help. Show good examples of positive outcomes. As they say in other front lines: Engage. Engage. Engage.

This  would give people a sense that their personal endeavours will help reduce the spread of the virus.

We are all in this together.