The Challenges of 2021

Every second word last year seemed to be ‘unprecedented.’ When 2020 ended, there were many memes, comments, and hopes that 2021 would be better, and that the issues of the pandemic would be over.

I remember at the time, thinking that those hopes would be proved to be futile, because the simple change of date was never going to change things that dramatically. We were still (worldwide) largely gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in various places around the world, chaos seemed to reign.

And of course, 2021 dawned, and nothing major had changed.

As I’ve previously written elsewhere in this blog, Australia has been very fortunate so far over the course of the pandemic. After our initial six week lockdown, we had few cases nationwide, until the middle of the year, when Victoria had a sudden surge. A hefty lockdown later, and Victoria emerged with little to no, community transmission.

Since then, apart from a few transmissions from hotel quarantine, generally followed by quick lockdowns, we’ve trotted along with less and less restrictions, and are now, in many ways, heading back towards very normal lives.

There are the obvious things – check-ins via app, trying to remember to distance, hand washing and sanitising, and scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing, at work. Australia’s current figures counted as of today, are 29,519 cases total, and 910 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

If you read my blog, you’ll probably know that I’m a Christian. During the lockdown, church consisted only of online sermons, zoom meetings, phone calls, and emails. Later on, we abided by the 4m2 rule (one person per 4m2 – which meant we had to roster our congregation), no congregational singing, masks, no morning tea, and very limited socialising, all while maintaining our online stuff. Now, we only have to abide by the 2m2 rule (see the 4m2 rule), don’t have to mask, can sing as a congregation, and just have to remember hygiene, checking in and distancing.

These rules now apply pretty well across the board in most of Australia now. It is harder to remember to distance when community transmission is almost non-existent, but checking in via app is pretty well routine now.

Next weekend, it’s ANZAC Day. Last year, we observed it at home, often by standing in our driveways with candles, listening to the Ode, or playing The Last Post on our own instruments, by the light of flickering candles.

This year, we’ll have marches, dawn services, and normal commemorations, just with checking in, some limited numbers, reminders about distancing.

More problematic this year here, is our vaccine rollout. It’s been impacted by a variety of things. For whatever reason, our government, despite the year lead up, decided not to pursue the ability to make mRNA vaccines here. Consequently, they have to be imported. We can, and are, manufacturing the Astra Zeneca adenovirus vaccine, but that is now recommended for use in primarily over fifties. There is a potential for a particular type of rare blood clotting disorder – the risk is about 1:250,000. Here is a good article about it.

I’ve had the Astra Zeneca vaccine – nearly three weeks ago – because I’m a health professional, and am part of the 1b group in the rollout. But unfortunately, only about 1.5 million people in Australia have received at least their first dose so far. Deliveries of vaccines from overseas have been problematic, delayed, and local GPs, who are meant to be vaccinating their communities, have very small supplies.

The states are now taking things into their own hands, but again, supply, organised by the Federal government, will determine how efficiently the rollout will occur. There’s an entertaining video here if you’d like to see what we’re up against. (Note: Our PM’s name is Scott Morrison, also known as Scomo, or Scotty from Marketing)

Of course, 2021 is not going to be a lot different to 2020, except hopefully, we’ll all end up vaccinated. Eventually. Things will depend very much on whether vaccination prevents transmission, or whether variants now developing where ongoing transmission is occurring, are able to outwit some of the vaccines developed.

I know that in many other places, caseloads are escalating once more. In some places, more deaths will follow. The hope I have for this year, is that we will – as a whole world – manage to vaccinate enough people to reduce those cases once more.

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