At the end of August, my travel exemption to get into Australia was finally approved. I packed up my belongings, threw up two peace signs and said my goodbyes to the USA. I was thrilled to be escaping after 6 long months of battling through life in New York City.
The journey Down Under wasn’t easy.
I was locked in a quarantine hotel room at the Amora Jamison Sydney for two excruciatingly long weeks filled with jogging in place and multiple life crises followed by 14 more mind-numbing days of self-quarantine in my South Hobart apartment in Tasmania. (Click HERE and HERE if your curious to learn more about the journey)
After what seemed to be the longest, least exciting month of my life, I stepped out the front door into freedom.
In Tasmania, you rarely see people wearing masks, you can go out eat, head to the the movies, sweat at the gym, and give people hugs. Food markets are bustling, farmer’s markets are in full swing, and kids have been back in school for months.
Why? Tasmania is COVID free.
I went from one of the worst COVID spots in the world to one of the safest, and the normalcy was jarring.
As of January 6th, here are Australia’s TOTAL Stats according to the COVIDSafe App:
Australia is an island and Tasmania is an even smaller island, making it easy to successfully implement strict travel restrictions because no one is simply sneaking across a border.
The borders officially shut on March 20th. Australian citizens were allowed to return, but they had to complete a mandatory 2 week quarantine upon arrival, which was paid for by the government up until Mid-July. All incomers after the cut off day have to shell out $3,000 AUD. Once you’re in, you’re in. Australian citizens aren’t allowed to leave without a travel exemption.
If you’re a non-citizen, like me, there are special travel exemptions you can apply for, but they don’t come easy. I applied for the De Facto partner exemption because I was a citizen’s fiancé, and it took two tries and one hell of an application to get it approved.
While Tasmania has been COVID free for months, there are still precautions put in place. Click HERE for the official rules and regulations issued by the government.
You need to enter your name, number, and the time whenever you go into a restaurant or event so the government can properly contact trace. If another patron tests positive, you’ll get a call saying you need to self quarantine so you don’t spread it to someone else.
Contact tracing works. Plain and simple. The effectiveness of a well-organized contact tracing system can be seen in South Korea, Singapore, and China. Australia’s contact tracing system might not be up to par with the likes of South Korea, but it’ still pretty damn good, particularly when compared to the US. (Click HERE to learn more)
2.Limited Capacity at Venues
(Tasmania specific rules)
As of December 20th, churches and religious services can operate at 75% capacity.
As of December 21st, indoor theatres can operate at 75% capacity
As of January 1st, sporting event capacity will be increased from 50% to 75%
Indoor spaces (bars, restaurants, etc) have a density limit of one person per 2 square meters for up to 250 people.
Outdoor spaces have a 1,000 person limit.
Limit of 100 people in houses.
3. Restrictions on dancing and vertical drinking (standing up while drinking) were in place through December 11th
Social dancing and standing up while dinking were banned throughout Tasmania to limit the spread. This took atoll on the hospitality industry, and there were big movements to get the rule reversed. Click HERE to learn more.
4.Interstate Travel Restrictions
In order to control breakouts, interstate travel restrictions can be put in place, and you will be required to do a 14 day mandatory quarantine period if traveling from one of the restricted states. Currently, anyone traveling from the Greater Sydney Area is required to quarantine (click HERE for more info on interstate travel restrictions.)
Lock Downs Were/Are Taken Very Seriously With Massive Fines in Place:
It’s one thing to tell people to stay home, it’s another thing to get people to actually stay home.
In many parts of the United States, people simply ignored stay at home orders and refused to wear masks. In New York City, the streets in my Hamilton Heights neighborhood came alive at the first sign of spring. People gathered in big groups along Riverside Park for afternoon BBQs; no masks, no social distancing. And why wouldn’t they? There were no immediate consequences for breaking the rules (although getting COVID is certainly a big enough consequence if you ask me) and the leader of the country was giving conflicting information.
In Australia, failure to follow a stay at home orders, curfews, and social distancing rules during the height of the pandemic would earn you a massive fine ranging from $756 in Tasmania to $1,652 in Victoria to $1,000 in South Australia to $5,056 in the Northern Territory (click HERE for the article). The states have earned millions from these fines as a result. Victoria alone dished out 13,900 fines totaling $20.15 million according to THIS article.
Breaking lockdowns is one thing, breaking mandatory state to state quarantines is another. Johnathan David was caught sneaking out of his quarantine hotel in Perth, and was sentenced to a month in jail. Asher Faye Vander Saden snuck into Perth via car after spending a month in Victoria to avoid the hotel quarantine, and she was sentenced to a 6 month jail sentence.
The first week of January, a couple flying into Melbourne from New South Wales fled the airport to avoid quarantine and will be charged AUD $19,000 each. Click HERE for the story!
How COVID impacts my daily life in Tasmania:
1. Contact Tracing:
Whenever I walk into a restaurant, market, or event, I sign a book with my name, number, and the time or I scan a handy dandy QR code. It’s quick, simple, and takes 30 seconds. If another patron tests positive for COVID, I’ll be called up and required to self-quarantine.
Do I feel like this infringes on my privacy or my rights? Not in the least bit.
I hate to break it to you, but privacy no longer exists. Each time you use the internet on your computer or smart phone, you are consenting to your data and information being tracked and analyzed. If you think computers aren’t tracking your every move, check out Netflix’s The Social Dilemma. (Note: I didn’t love the documentary, but it gets the point across)
I signed over my privacy to tech giants years ago, and informing the government about my whereabout to prevent the spread of a deadly disease seems reasonable.
2. Grocery stores, drug stores, fast food restaurants, and other face-to-face interactions have plastic barriers put up between the employee and customer,
3. Stores have traffic flow directions with “enter here” and “exit here” (although no one really follows them) an there are dots on the ground before check out to indicate proper social distancing (although no one really stands on them)
4. There are signs in store front windows urging you to stay home if you have symptoms.
5. Big events such as the Taste of Tasmania and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race have been cancelled.
All in all, I hardly notice COVID exists.
I went from wearing masks, waiting in line to get into grocery stores, not going out to eat, and not seeing friends to a fairly normal life.
Viewing virus restrictions as an infringement on freedom and rights has allowed COVID to run amok throughout the United States. Contact tracing, stay at home restrictions, social distancing, masks, and border restrictions work! The proof is in the data. Australia, South Korea, and China are all fantastic examples of this.
Is it too late for the US to implement such programs? Has the spread simply become uncontainable?
Maybe. But what if it’s not?
Hungry for more? Check out this post!