opinion

"What is happening post-jab?" The big question about Australia's COVID future.

It wasn’t until last Saturday night that I truly reached my plateau. 

It was 8:30pm and I was in my bed, alone, after a carb-heavy meal. I found myself watching the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Nikki Webster’s standout performance (she is a true Australian icon and I won’t hear otherwise, pandemic or not). 

But it was in that moment that I felt a hole; seeing the global crowd together, excited, united. I miss it terribly.

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Like most Australians, I’ve had an interesting pandemic experience. 

From completing a Swedish master’s degree entirely online, working from an office for a total of 3 days in the past year and not seeing my father and siblings in Spain since 2019.

I miss my family, my friends, my colleagues and feeling like myself. And, I am not alone in feeling this.

I also recognise my experience has been relatively sheltered too: I am 30, single, no children with a stable job. 

I have not seen my cafe of 20 years close, balanced working full time while home-schooling, brought a newborn into a world restricting new visitors or missed the marriage or funeral of a loved one. 

Although, I have seen this happen to people I care about far too often. I travelled to 70 countries in 2019, so I can’t exactly jump on the no-travel-depression bandwagon, either.

My greatest ailments have been COVID-kilos (yes, not a weight loss success story in lockdown) and an increase to my generalised anxiety. 

This is worsened by the fact that I live on a street that is five houses into one of Sydney’s hotspots: Canterbury-Bankstown. 

In one local walk along the Cooks River, I wear a mask under a strict mandate for 100 meters, and out of civic duty for the remainder.

As Government restrictions continue to tighten, particularly in areas of concern (like mine) one dominant thought in my overly-analytical brain remains: what is the end goal?  

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This question is complex; the approach in Australia has been largely reactive and responsive to the lessons learned abroad. Likewise, the noise surrounding COVID that dominates public conversation is clear: get vaccinated, avoid social contact and wear a mask. 

I have remained largely silent, taking time to understand what my concerns are (like any good thinker does). But silence makes me worry, especially when the loudest voices on the subject are never silenced. 

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I worry about the decline in mental stamina of my friends and loved ones and the cultural divide that I see across the city that has been my home since birth. I worry about our division weighing more heavily on us than our togetherness. I worry about my own ability to cope with tougher restrictions. 

And I fear this will degrade further with harsher restrictions and a lack of clarity around the end state we are heading towards.

One of the many topics strengthening the divide is vaccination. (My opinion is just another voice in a growing cacophony, and I am by no means an expert.)  

For the voices that champion vaccination, I have my appointment this week and I hear you. 

For some voices against vaccine use, I also hear you. 

Decisions around health take time, and the messaging has not been clear enough. 

But what both sides seem to agree on is clear: what is happening post-jab? And why should I get it, if that clarity has not been outlined?

This also is not a complete criticism of the leaders steering us through this pandemic. 

Whether you agree, or not, standing up to face the media every day is not easy (and accountability is part of the role). 

Our elected leaders are human, they might not always get it right. The Chief Health Officer’s role has grown into unchartered territory and unprecedented responsibility, probably unheard of since the last major health crisis. 

Still, before continuing to implement new measures to protect us from rising hospitalisation and fatalities related to the pandemic - the Government should be clearer about where we will be ending up and what that looks like. 

Criticise Boris Johnson’s scrapping of most restrictions in England two months ago, but the messaging was sharp and the outcome, expected. People have the choice to take on any risks associated with this freedom. 

I am not seeking to spread rhetoric that aligns with either side in the pandemic ‘division’. 

Instead, I want to raise my voice on what I see to be the unifying concern of many: leadership and clarity around what post-vaccine Australia will look like.

I have seen a trend in the ‘let’s do this’ hashtag for vaccination, but what is it we are doing?

Currently we are chasing a target without knowing what that will mean for our future freedoms. Will Australia go full-BoJo or not?

If I’m feeling angry and disillusioned, I know you would be too.  

And I hope that we start to see this messaging emerge with clarity in the daily discourse, rather than tracking a target. Hope (and one-hour walks) is all I have right now.

Adam Abbasi Sacca is a freelance writer, and has a background in policy and international affairs. Pre-pandemic, Adam spent a large amount of time documenting his travels (over 100 countries). He now resides in Sydney, Australia and is passionate about sharing stories on current affairs, culture and identity. You can find him on Instagram @adamabbasi_.

Feature Image: Getty.