Monday, 12 October 2020

Memories of unusual times

A couple of months I was reading the news on the ABC website and saw an article suggesting that it would be a good idea to record our memories of the current COVID-19 pandemic for future reference and also to be able to recall our feelings at the time. As I live in Queensland these are some of my memories of the first six months or so in our state but circumstances are different in each state. 

Toilet paper just disappeared overnight 

As I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday I thought I would put together a post to remind myself about the sequence of events since we first heard about the pandemic which is for my own reference mainly. I actually started this blog post two months ago so thought I had better finish it off before the pandemic is over.

Back in January when Australia was still reeling from the dreadful bushfires that devastated so many properties, it seemed like we were just taking a breather and working out how we could best help those in need when the 'latest news' on TV wasn't about the fires anymore but about a mystery virus that was causing people in Wuhan China to drop on the street. At that stage I thought it may have been another SARS event but as the weeks wore on there were news segments about the virus infecting people in other nations as well as China. At the end of January a man who had returned from Wuhan had been infected by the virus so we sat up and took notice then. By the 11th March the WHO declared a public health emergency and announced to the world that a pandemic had hit. On the 13th March a Queensland lady in her seventies died after returning from the US. Also Tom Hanks and his wife who were in Australia announced they also had the virus. 

By that stage we were getting a little nervous as cruise ship passengers were returning to Australia who were sick with the virus and emergency wards started to prepare to be inundated with infected patients. On March 19th Australia banned all overseas arrivals apart from returning citizens and residents. 

On the 22nd March the Prime Minister announced a shutdown of all essential services from midday the following day as the infection spread among the Australian population. Thankfully the supermarkets remained open as did a number of other stores which I wouldn't have considered to provide an 'essential service' and one of the first oddities we noticed was the hoarding of toilet paper by some people. You can see the empty shelves in the first photo which was taken in Woolworths. Then flour, pasta and other items disappeared from the supermarket shelves and earlier opening times were announced just for older shoppers and health care workers. 

Home delivery of groceries became very popular for those who had access to a computer but unfortunately many elderly people, like my sister, aren't computer literate so still made their way to the supermarket by car or bus if they could and had no family or friends around to help. 

We started to hear about 'social distancing' and the need to wash our hands thoroughly and use hand sanitisers and hand sanitiser stands began appearing in our shopping centres. 

Food halls were shut down

On March 25th Queensland shut its borders as the numbers of infections rose and the following day the Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that schools would be shut to students apart from the children of essential workers as well as vulnerable children. You could almost hear a collective groan from parents around our state and a cheer from the children. 

Shopping centres were quiet apart from the supermarkets as some people started hoarding supplies and for some reason gardening stores ran out of vegetable seeds. Obviously there are those who just buy groceries for a few days and I hoped that all that food that was suddenly being hoarded wasn't going into landfill. I also wondered how the new veggie gardens were going :-)

Cleaners became 'Cleaning and Sanitising Ambassadors'. 


Lining up at Bunnings, (which obviously was considered a provider of 'essential services' as they remained opened), became the new norm as was the counting of customers entering and leaving stores as they followed the 'enter' and 'exit' routes. 

Eventually restrictions were eased and food outlets could sell takeaway least those who were still financially able to do that and a few months down the track food halls were able to reopen with limited numbers to enable social distancing. 

Months later stores like KMart and BigW still had some shelves that were partly empty due to the lack of imports coming from China and a lot of Aussies were wondering why we are so reliant on overseas countries for our goods. 

Of course part of the answer is that they are cheaper but would people be willing to pay higher prices for Australian made goods? I know some people would if they could afford it. 

As I mentioned every state has had different restrictions and, at the time of writing, the Queensland borders are still partially closed but that may change soon as we have a state election coming up on the 31st October. I think many Queenslanders have felt fairly protected from COVID-19 but the economy has taken a huge hit understandably with so many business having to shut down and it will take quite some time for the economy to recover. 

In many ways, apart from the first couple of months when we were restricted in the number of kilometres we could drive and the cafes and churches were shut, life has been much the same as usual for me as I am retired and don't travel much. I did miss meeting up with my friends and teaching English to my Yazidi student (TAFE home volunteers still haven't returned to teaching) and most churches have reopened with social distancing and cleaning the norm. Of course, for young people with a job and young children, life has changed dramatically in many cases due to the loss of income.

When we first heard about restrictions coming in back in March we were told that 'this could go on until September' and I remember thinking 'You've got to be kidding!' Now there are second waves happening around the world so who knows when this will be over but one thing is for sure, we now know how to keep flu numbers low when things return to normal. A helpful record of events in our state as they happened can be found on this ABC website Coronavirus timeline in Queensland

Have a wonderful week everyone!


  1. SA was the same. I remember the 1st week in March camping for a week in Renmark and all was fine. Returning home to finding shelves like this and how eerie it was as so many shops closed.

    1. Sarah, on the forum we were wondering if you were okay and thought you may be ill. It is good to hear from you.

    2. Not much has changed with my health. I have been in hospital a couple of times and been on semi urgent wait list for orthopaedic surgeon for 13 months now. I was so ashamed I did not get Gina's swap item to her. 2 of the children were very sick, 1 had pneumonia. Ruby was diagnosed with level 2 autsim I June. On a brighter note, I'm alive and breathing so that's something. I hope you are keeping well

    3. Sarah, just let Gina know as she thought something had happened and would be pleased to know you are okay. Hope you get to the top of the waiting list soon.

  2. I live in the country with the idiot government that is yelling fake news and has done precious little to stop the spread of covid. I'm not sure when we'll ever be back to "normal." I'd love to live in a country with a sane government.

    1. The number of people infected overseas is hard to comprehend when we have been fairly protected here but I certainly would hate to be a politician at the moment.

  3. I had a laugh when you said you needed to do this post before the pandemic was over ... you are an optimist ... I reckon it still has a long way to run and the economic fallout years and years to go.


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