Giuliana Otmarich – COVID-19

COVID-19 epidemic – living through the first wave

Well, I first realised how dangerous the situation was as I sat with Peter and my friend Clara in a café for one of our Saturday morning catch-ups in mid March. Our conversation was totally focused on the unfolding epidemic and it’s ramifications for our health and daily lives.

It dawned on me as we talked that we were facing a major health crisis as well as social and economic upheaval. My own and my family’s life and limb were at risk and major changes to our lifestyle were called for. It was a realisation that hit home hard, so hard it triggered a sudden wave of determination to do everything I could do to protect us from the danger. That very afternoon I thought through protocols for distancing, isolating, masking and disinfecting and began to implement them.

In the weeks that followed I established new domestic routines and daily habits of hygiene with an energy and enthusiasm that quite surprised me, reinforced each evening as I listened to the alarming media coverage of the virus’ relentless progress. I developed a paradoxical sense of community connection as everywhere I ran into the courteous regard or rude disregard for distancing among pedestrians and shoppers and heard the Prime Minister’s regular reminder, ‘We are all in this together’ floating in the background of the crisis.

At the beginning I worried about how Peter and I would survive weeks or months of isolation. Again I was surprised. As the days rolled by and we kept largely to our house and garden, an increased calm and serenity settled on us and with it a heightened closeness and care for each other. Far from constrained I felt liberated having no appointments, no social commitments, no outside pressures, free to spend a whole day or a whole week pottering in my garden, uninterrupted.

It took a week or two for me to seriously miss personal contact with grandchildren. Phone calls, sessions on Zoom helped but not entirely. In the end I set up live meetings at their place, me on the footpath, they in the front garden, chatting for a while. Again it was better than nothing but still somewhat strange and stilted.

Digital technology that once I used to ignore, now became a medium I willingly embraced for contact with friends and family. Online conversations were all about the epidemic and I remember thinking and declaring to my friends that the greatest danger would come with the eventual relaxation of lockdown measures and that I would be extremely cautious in relaxing my own isolation boundaries.

Well the lifting of restrictions has arrived and with it other surprises. Some of my protective household routines have taken root, perhaps for the long term. For example I continue to disinfect door and cupboard handles, domestic surfaces, shopping bags, the steering wheel, dashboard and seatbelt clips of my car. But on the other hand I have not been very cautious with my isolation boundaries and have embraced the return to social freedom with somewhat careless enthusiasm.

I am enormously appreciative of how very fortunate we have been here in Australia, here in South Australia. We have to a very large extent dodged the COVID19 bullet. But I am still enormously aware of the imminent danger of a second wave. We are by no means out of the woods yet. So I try to hold on to the lessons I have learnt in the last months, the precautions I have practised, especially the ones I am now tending to forget.