Corona time: is this the real life, or is this just fiction?

If we’d heard during the bushfire crisis in early January that by March we’d be battling a global pandemic with intense restrictions to the way we live, we’d never have believed it.

At the end of February when we were hanging with the masses on the Gold Coast, fear of the virus was vaguely hanging in the air. Earlier that month we saw news reports of China and Italy being locked down but I couldn’t imagine we would ever need to face such restrictions here.

But of course we would. As recently as early March, my son, my ex-husband and I were still thinking about a family holiday to the US, in particular New York (the home of Spiderman) for later in the year. We had no idea it would become the “epicentre of the virus”! We hadn’t booked anything but now that idea is long gone and who knows when it will be resurrected?

I knew things were getting serious in Australia when Sky Fire (an annual Canberra Fireworks and music event) was cancelled 1 or 2 days before it was supposed to happen in mid-March. Scomo (the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison) banned gatherings of more than 500 people. And the restrictions got tighter from there.

Later in March the threat tightened its grip and life changed for everyone: The specifics of the rules kept changing in a bizarre tango between rigorous caution and practicality. Only go out for essential reasons. Non-essential businesses to shut. Work and school from home if you can. Weddings can have 5 guests, funerals 10. No social gatherings in your own home. Can’t exercise in more than groups of 2. Can’t sit on a park bench.

A friend posted on Facebook that she felt like she was living in a post-apocalyptic BBC drama. Now when I read the news and look at memes on social media about the way we live now, sometimes I manage to conjure the perspective of someone who’s just crawled out from under a rock and I view it with disbelief. Are we actually living in a dystopia, a sci-fi movie? It might be 2020, but is this really George Orwell’s 1984? It’s wartime on a war called Corona.

I thought of the Spanish Flu of 1918 and I was curious about the details of that, so I could be better imagine likely scenarios of how this corona thing would might play out. How did people cope back then? How would we cope now?

I thought about Edward (Robert Pattinson) from Twilight becoming a vampire when he was a young soldier dying in hospital from Spanish Flu in 1918. His doctor, who happened to be a vampire, saw Edward’s impending death as an opportunity to feed without killing, and thus, another new young handsome vampire joined the pack. An example of fiction being stranger than truth, in this case.

Spanish flu was the catalyst for Twilight’s Edward becoming a vampire

I thought that during our lives, at least the last 50 years, there’s been no other event that’s caused the same level of global disruption and will have such far-reaching economic and social affects as this pandemic. Slowing the spread of this highly-contagious new virus that seems to manifest in unpredictable ways has resulted in over 1 million people in Australia losing their jobs and businesses, sending us into billions of dollars worth of debt as our government hands out financial lifelines.

But my great-grandparents lived through WW1, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and WW2. This is our generation’s history-making disruption.

Less seriously, coronavirus is theoretically causing a disruption to the idea of my getting back into the dating game. Just when I thought I might give it a crack again this year, a pandemic descends.

Now I hear the online dating gurus and columnists say that writing long messages back and forth a la Jane Austen is in and virtual dates are the new trend. A safer alternative to possibly meeting a vampire IRL (well, a metaphorical one).

Maybe I could take comfort from Love in the Time of Cholera. I’ve never read it, but I find the title vaguely comforting – the idea that love can happen anywhere, anytime. Meanwhile, I ain’t getting any younger.

But my hair is getting greyer, and now I’m not sure whether to keep my May 2 hair appointment (that was made on March 7 at the time of my last salon visit). Even though Scomo says we can now have hair appointments that last longer than 30 minutes. But since my hairdresser literally works from home these days, it’s probably fine.

The good news is that the social distancing and restrictions seem to be working so far as the rate of new infections decreases.


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