As far as COVID is concerned, Australia is one of the safest places in the world to be. Msunderstood is an Australian vet living in Scotland, where the situation is very different. Here is her powerful account of life in the UK right now.
After graduating from UQ Vet School and spending two years working in the Snowy Mountains, it was time to explore the world. Following several months wearing out my Eurail pass, I found myself in Edinburgh staying with a school friend on a teacher exchange. I instantly fell in love with Edinburgh and decided to seek work in Scotland. A series of locum jobs, some for a week, some for months and others for years, then came marriage, kids, a farm and lots of debt! Many years later, I am divorced, with two teenagers and juggling two jobs. Then fate intervened, and I met my Someone… only one problem… he lives in Australia. So about two years ago I decided once the kids had finished secondary school it would be time to return home and start a new life.
Pre Covid, my Someone and I had managed to see each other several times a year. Then came 2020. As I write this I am in the depths of a Scottish winter, the thermometer barely above freezing for the past week. Again we are in lockdown. For the third time, thanks to the utter mismanagement and corruption of the ‘WestMonster’ government. Official figures show well over 80 000 dead and we are now losing over 1000 daily due to Covid.
We initially went into lockdown in March – stay at home orders were issued and many (including me) were furloughed. We were allowed out to exercise once a day and for essential shopping. It wasn’t much fun, but being allowed to binge watch Netflix without feeling guilty about not working seemed ok for a while. I was called back to work after about 6 weeks, as the surgery had been working on skeleton staff and the vets and nurses were starting to burn out under the strain. Honestly, I was glad to be working again, as it kept the mind occupied and we seemed to be coming out of the first wave.
The death toll was huge and many of us assumed that Boris’ close shave with the virus may have changed his approach. Sadly, as we now know, this assumption proved false. The lockdown was eased when the numbers in London showed the virus was in decline. Unfortunately, the rest of the country was some weeks behind and this opening up too soon proved to be a disaster.
The ‘Great British Summer’ arrived (not summer as any Aussie would know it) and as everyone knows the Brits love their summer holidays abroad. The government encouraged travel, so they went, in their hundreds of thousands. Evidence now show that the main strain identified in Scotland after the summer was from Spain. “The strain from Spain comes mainly on the plane”??
Then the government had a brain wave to aid the hospitality sector – ‘Eat out to Help out’ where dining out was subsidised. This was also a great success… at spreading the virus.
By the end of summer the virus in the north of England was out of control, and Manchester and many other areas were put into heightened restrictions. By November, London was in a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to try to control the spread again. The bright idea to allow households to mix for 5 days over Christmas was eventually reduced to one day, after pressure from the scientific community. Numbers since then have rocketed and the NHS is at the point of crumbling under the stress.
Although each of the four nations of the UK have taken a slightly different approach and have slightly different fatality rates, the mismanagement of the whole saga has been one of too little, too late, not following the scientific evidence and corruption of the highest order. From the purchasing of PPE, the awarding of contracts to Tory cronies, the billions thrown at a test and trace system that is not fit for purpose, and an app that does not work, the setting up of emergency hospitals with no-one to staff them-every step taken has been wrong footed.
So lockdown again. Yet for the last 10 months there has been no border control. You can still land at Heathrow airport and walk straight through onto a tube and into London. Self-quarantine is required if you fly in from non-exempt countries, but it is not policed. There is talk of pre flight testing being required now, but considering we now have the highest infection rate per capita in the world, it seems rather pointless.
But life goes on… for some.
To avoid the mental scars on the staff that followed the first lockdown, the surgery staff have been split into two teams working week about, so that contamination and contact is minimised. Vets had to fight during the first lockdown to be considered ‘key workers’ and are restricted to essential and emergency work only. Interesting that some clients consider clipping nails an essential service!
Children are again off school and I doubt will be back before the summer holidays. In the past 11 months they have had about 15 weeks at school. For my son, that will mean he may go to university having never sat a formal examination.
Since March 2020, I have been to work and to get the groceries. The kids and I have had two day trips away, with a picnic, far from the madding crowds. I have not been for a swim, shopping with my daughter, I have had only two haircuts in the last 11 months, I wear a mask all day, every day at work and will do for the foreseeable future. It feels like being half alive. I realise that I am very fortunate to have a job and so far we have all been healthy, there are so many terribly sad stories to have come out of this crisis.
My plans to return home depend on all the other ‘stranded Aussies’ getting back first. My Someone and I Skype at least twice a day, every day, sometimes for hours when our schedules allow. It is not easy, and every day is a day closer but I am so scared that I will not live to enjoy the life we have planned together.
This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!