When COVID-19 hit Australia last March, I was feeling lucky. I had managed to get on a flight to Singapore the week before and squeeze in one more business trip before international flights were restricted.
Singapore had taken it in stride; they had seen this type of thing before and with great efficiency were able to track, trace and contain most outbreaks. People were generally working from home. The metro was virtually empty, but the bars and restaurants were still open. I took an empty flight back to Sydney and landed without any drama. No one asked me any questions, no one took my temperature. Nothing.
I wanted to get home. My wife and I had been together for 20 years, married for almost 15. We had three lovely boys, in addition to a mortgage and school fees. Coming from the UK and somewhat detached from my own family, my wife's tightknit clan and the allure of Sydney always meant it would be our final destination, the place where we would raise our children and call home.
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I love my family. I thought we were happy but after several years of living and travelling around the world, our life started to drag a little. We started to feel the pressure of middle age and a sense that maybe living in the present for so many years may have come at a cost. Nonetheless, our marriage was always sound and my wife was the kind of woman who accepted the good and not-so-good with grace and strength. I felt that we would get through this difficult period.
Things changed in the first week of March when a sort of coronavirus mania took hold in Sydney and other parts of Australia. We watched the horror unfold in Italy as the hospitals were overwhelmed and many people started to die. It was scary.
In the middle of March, the Ruby Princess disembarked 2700 passengers in Sydney harbour, of which 440 would eventually test positive for COVID-19, setting in motion a severe NSW government response. Closer to home, I was chased out of my brother’s house after a cough and a sniffle and strongly encouraged to be tested.