The COVID situation in Australia has become a bit precarious. Today, Victoria clocked up 459 cases and 10 deaths. NSW managed another 14 cases.

From what seems to be a catastrophic failure of hotel quarantine, coupled with a variety of other factors, some places in our country stand at a tipping point. You can follow along on our national broadcaster’s coronavirus blog here.

But still, across social media, I see people ranting about ‘my rights.’ They flout social distancing conventions, congratulate themselves for not wearing a mask when directed to do so, and in some cases, deny that there’s even a pandemic. Some, I suspect, simply believe that COVID-19 will not cause them any issues, should they catch it themselves.

I find all of this inexplicable. It’s not a conspiracy. People are sick. The death rate varies from place to place, but only because in some places the health system has not yet been overwhelmed. It appears that infection for some people will result in months of illness, and in some cases, life long disability. It’s far from the simple respiratory illness that some people seem to think it is.

I’ve heard people say: “Oh, it’s only a bad flu.” I suspect those people have never had influenza. I have. And I never want to have it again. COVID-19 is most definitely worse than that – but not for all, I do understand that, it’s an incredibly variable illness. But in the end the statistics speak for themselves. Most days, I check out the world stats on the Johns Hopkins site. The numbers are gobsmackingly huge.

And while it has not personally impacted on myself or my family, so far – in terms of illness I mean – I now know people whose family members have had COVID-19. And at least one nearly didn’t make it.

While I’ve heard a lot about rights, I haven’t heard a lot about personal responsibility.

Perhaps people who want to do whatever they want are just louder. Or angrier, or something that I don’t understand.

Because I often think about responsibilities during this pandemic.

It is my responsibility to work safely so that my patients are kept safe.

It is my responsibility to wash my hands frequently.

It is my responsibility to use hand sanitiser when asked.

It is my responsibility to keep my distance in social situations.

It may well be my responsibility to wear a mask. (Currently we don’t have a directive to wear one, and in our rural community, as far as we are aware, there is no community transmission, but we can be requested to do so, and I can choose to do so, in certain situations where distancing cannot be kept.) I have no problem in doing so should our public health orders require it. In fact, I am currently daily awaiting the order to do so.

It is my responsibility to leave my name and phone number in restaurants, places of worship, and cafes.

And why is it MY responsibility? It is my responsibility because I am part of a community, and it’s not all about me. If I focus on other people, and the ways my actions contribute to keeping them safe, then all of this takes on a new meaning. If I focus on the fact that I would hate to make anyone else sick, then doing the right thing follows on naturally.

So please, no matter what you want, take the time to think of others. Make <i>them</i> the motivator for your actions. Don’t focus on what you think of as your rights, but remind yourself that your family, friends and neighbours also have a right not to be sick – and you can help them by taking responsibility, and for doing the right things.

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