Beware the hydra-headed snake of coronavirus

By John Lewis

As borders close and walls go up, now is not the time to start shutting down our respect for each other or for the rules.

The old Monty Python classic line "you are all individuals" is funny, but not true. We are in fact a society and now is the time to behave like one.

We may be isolated from the rest of Australia, but we are still all in this together.

We are moving through the pandemic as families, as communities, as cities, as states and as a country.

The rules are there to protect everyone, difficult as that may be.

This thing is like a game of whack-a-mole with a hundred deadly snake heads.

Just when one head is squashed, another pops up.

I do not envy Dan Andrews his task.

I've been listening to medical guru and broadcaster Dr Norman Swan — the man with the soothing Scottish accent, which is exactly what we need in these trying times.

Dr Swan says the key to stopping the spread of coronavirus is testing, testing, testing.

He says anyone with the slightest symptoms needs to get tested. Otherwise we'll miss cases that could enter the community like a sneaky snake. This snake could have arrived two weeks ago and could have been circulating with no symptoms, then suddenly there's 20 people with the virus.

Canberra had three coronavirus cases for the first time in a month this week. The cases were from the same household and had links to Victoria.

Then there are the Jetstar passengers from Melbourne who disembarked at Sydney without being screened. Watch that space.

The point is, even in places like Shepparton where we had just one active case about a week ago, we still need to be aware, and not become complacent.

I've noticed a few people are getting back into handshakes and hugs lately.

Yes, I know I'm a huggable, friendly sort of fellow who is crying out for love and attention.

It's awkward, but I'm still using the elbow thing in social situations.

It's already a cliche — but these are indeed strange times.

Perhaps the cruellest pinch of the virus is losing the healing power of touch. The comfort of an embrace, a kiss, a handshake or just a light touch on the arm now seems an unforgivable trespass.

But if this the price of survival, then so be it.

The longer-term effects on society of this hydra-headed serpent are even more insidious.

The gig economy was already eroding the dreams of home ownership and superannuation for many.

Now, the prospect of regular full-time employment is receding even further as the economic effects of COVID-19 restrictions bite deeper.

My heart aches for anyone under 30 staring into the tunnel of the future, as it does for small business owners and the unemployed.

Does that mean we should ease restrictions and open borders because the economy is hurting? Is the cure worse than the disease?

Absolutely not. Now is the time to listen to the epidemiologists and the leaders who are listening to them.

So thank goodness for Dan Andrews.

We may, for now, live in a virus-free bubble in rural Victoria, but the bite of the snake is always just a breath away.

● John Lewis is a senior News journalist.