What Is Daily Life in Tasmania Like During COVID-19? (Spoiler Alert: It’s Pretty Normal)

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:

How?

Geography:

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.

Proper Precautions:

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.

1.Contact Tracing

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.

The takeaway?

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!

Life, Liberty, and the Freedom to Not Wear a Mask?

Are masks an infringement on freedom? Here is some food for thought on the subject.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Your comments about contact tracing and essentially giving away some privacy rights is necessary and appropriate given the pandemic and we have also opened up our personal lives to the tech companies when we use the internet and social media are correct. Nevertheless, we still have to be on guard or the invasion of our personal privacy can go to far and not be regained. Persons brighter than I may have the answer, but we should be alert and urge legislators to impose practical limits. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      It’s certainly a tricky situation to navigate. Everything in life comes with trade offs. People want privacy, but also want customized news feeds on their smartphones, accurate online navigational tools, and all the other benefits that come with handing over personal information. Where do we draw the line? I have no doubts technology and AI will know us better than we know ourselves in the coming decades, and then we are posed with the real question: is it worth it?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I wish it was like that here in the US!

    Like

  3. laskegaa says:

    Very interesting! Dad

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  4. Lookoom says:

    Amusing to note the disparities in social distancing, 1m in France, 1.5m in Tasmania, 2m in Canada, there are inevitably some that are wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And now Brisbane is in lockdown for three days but likely to be more. There have been protests too especially here in Melbourne but gbe proof of the pudding is in the results and we’re back to Ni new cases last two days which is great. It does make it hard go plan domestic travel.

    Like

    1. Yeah it definitely throws a curveball into any sort of planning. Luckily, there seem to be fair cancellation policies in place!

      I’d love to hear a first hand perspective of what the reactions and opinions are like in Melbourne. I read up in the news, but you never really know unless you’re there!

      Like

      1. i think basically we were locked down from July through to mid-November in stage 4 lockdown. We were locked down also from March to June as well stage 3, and it wasnt until early december that we had the freedoms we have now and we are still required to wear masks inside. people were very unhappy, however we had 60 straight days of no new community transmission, and were able to get on top of this outbreak which came from NSW quickly enough that we werent sent back into any sort of lockdown. So I think a lot of the resentment has gone, certainly not all of it from some people, towards the actions taken as I say, look at the results. its been worth it. i know many dont agree with me but many do.

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      2. Interesting! What are your thoughts on contact tracing?

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      3. its an effective way to combat it but you will always miss people. but you have to do what you can. i imagine though that once a certain number of infections in the community is reached it becomes pointless

        Liked by 1 person

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