"I didn't cry when my wedding was cancelled. To be honest, I felt relief."

My wedding was 15 months in the making. We had a guest list of 140, a bulletproof floor plan, a gin bar and (thanks to my accountant fiancé) literally dozens of spreadsheets. This week we made the decision to pull the pin, I didn’t sob, weep or shed a tear.

“You’re not showing much emotion” – Quote my groom, which I found ironic coming from the excel-obsessed tax accountant.

To be honest – I felt a sense of relief.

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Why? I know what you are thinking – and no, it was not cold feet. John and I have been together for eight years. He is wonderful, my best friend and I can’t wait to marry him. But that is boring and irrelevant… (he is also very handsome).

I was relieved because I had felt it coming for weeks. I am a doctor. At the moment I work in a geriatric ward in London in the NHS, caring for elderly patients. The reality of COVID-19 has been omnipresent in my life for some time.

John and I moved to London in 2019 for a different working experience (read: many European weekend breaks and even more Aperol Spritz). We have had the year of a lifetime but these past weeks in the NHS have left me disconcerted at best and terrified at worst.

COVID-19 crept up on me – from whispers on the ward, to emergency briefings, to not being able to wash my hands at work. (Hand sanitisers were removed because visitors and staff were stealing them from patient bedsides).

On March 13, I woke up in London at 5am. I turned on the news. The US had closed their borders. We weren’t due to leave London to get back to Australia for our wedding for another five days. I shook John awake and we booked a flight for 1.30pm. We packed and left the same day.

Arriving home, it was clear we were touching down in a country a few weeks behind on the COVID-19 timeline. Adelaide airport greeted us with a blasé screening questionnaire: “Have you been in Italy, South Korea, China or Iran?”

I was screaming internally, “At least ask me if I have had a fever! Take my email so you can trace me if needed!” No such luck. To this day almost all of Australia’s cases are imported – why were they not collecting a database of high-risk arrivals?

The reality of COVID-19 seemed to belatedly be dawning on our population. My parents came to pick me up at the airport – I did not hug them, and will not hug them for months to come.

We went into a semi quarantine. We arrived just before the government imposed their two-week self-isolation period, but felt it was better to be safe than sorry. This was commented on by friends and family as “alarmist” and “panicked”. After all “it is just a flu” and “only affects the elderly”. This could not be further from the truth.


I get it though – a month ago I thought the same. Now I know around half of America’s ICU beds with COVID-19 patients are filled with under 65s. 38 per cent of America’s hospitalised patients are between 28 and 54. These people are can-not-breathe-for-themselves sick.

What I can’t understand is why people won’t act now. Looking overseas we can see the future. We know staying at home, prevents the spread. We know if it gets bad, thousands will die. Stay home, potentially save thousands of lives. Go out, worsen the trajectory and cause deaths.

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How is this a decision people are not able to make when we have the evidence of the worst case scenarios right in front of our eyes, playing out like a dystopian Sandra Bullock movie. What are they telling themselves to justify ignoring the advice?

I suppose the real reason I was not sad when my wedding was cancelled is that I am too busy feeling afraid and angry. I am afraid that hand sanitisers and masks are running out. I am afraid my grandparents will get sick and not be considered for treatment because of their age. I am afraid for all of our beautiful older population.

In Italy, families can not see their sick relatives, or hold funerals for them when they die. Instead, families are sent photos of their loved one in a coffin. I am afraid the makeshift morgues popping up in the US will appear in Australia. I am afraid that we will run out of hospital beds, and I will go into work and not be able to treat someone just because we don’t have the space, medications or staff.

And I am angry that the people I will be putting my life at risk for, when I go to work every day, are at f*cking Bondi beach on a Friday night.

Thirteen doctors have died from COVID-19 in China. One was 29 and another was 34. Eight more have already died in Italy. I will be going to work with this in the back of my mind. If you want me to show up and put my life at risk in the coming months to care for your loved ones. Please, I beg you, stay home and do the right thing. So hopefully in 2021, I can have the gin bar, handsome groom and wedding I will have waited nine years for.

You can follow Dr Sophie Fenella Hoile on Instagram here.

Read more on COVID-19:

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.