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The New Public Gathering Rule By James Reed
Here is an interesting article giving us a vision of the future, about three weeks’ time:
“I have a grim message for you from the future. About three weeks into the future, to be precise. My wife, our two daughters and I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles earlier this week as if emerging from a dream — or was it entering one? The reality we walked into seemed nothing like the one we had left in New York a few hours earlier. In our home neighbourhood in Brooklyn, friends had become strangers, and strangers had become threats. Our usual Sesame Street existence — in which a life of shared outdoor space turned every walk along the brownstones into a string of impromptu conversations with neighbours, crossing guards and shopkeepers — had descended into a lonely and menacing dash for essential supplies. People would cross the street as they saw you approaching. Regulars at our local cafe, when it was still open, would shout at others in line to keep their distance; parents in the park would usher their kids away from you with surgical-gloved hands. Everyone was a threat. Anyone could kill. After a string of cancellations and last minute re-bookings, we finally made it onto one of the last flights out — a hasty emigration brought forward by circumstance, all of our belongings left behind indefinitely. The plane was empty. When an airport worker at LAX started yelling at us to bunch closer together, two by two instead of single-file, I realised the coronavirus did not seem to represent the threat it did in Brooklyn. Fifteen hours later, as we disembarked in Sydney, it did not seem to exist at all. It's too late for New York, but not for Sydney. Like the background noise of an airplane safety demonstration, we were given vague instructions by quarantine officers to self-isolate for two weeks, handed a Department of Health fact sheet, then released into the wild. We stepped outside to be transported back in time, to New York three weeks ago. Schools and businesses were still open, beaches were packed (later that day Bondi closed and further shutdowns were announced), and people mingled — perhaps in denial of the new reality headed their way.”
Australia now has strong social distancing rules as strict as those in many parts of the West:
● Groups of more than two people in public are discouraged. States are still deciding on whether to enforce the new rule, which is up from groups of 10.
● People aged over 70 or 60-plus with chronic illness are discouraged from leaving their homes unless it’s essential for medical care.
● Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $1.1bn package to help with mental health, domestic violence prevention and other health measures.
● A WhatsApp group and a coronavirus app have been set up to provide Australians with updates.
● Australians returning home from overseas will be quarantined for two weeks in hotels or other accommodation before being allowed home.
● People flouting social distancing, isolation or quarantine orders faces fines of $1000 or more in most states.
● About 350 Australian Defence Force personnel are supporting state and territory authorities to enforce quarantine compliance.
● Borders closed in Queensland, Tasmania, SA, NT and WA. Freight and essential travel excepted.
● Non-essential travel should cease.
● Australians, excluding aid workers and compassionate travel cases, are banned from international travel.
● A limited number of international rescue flights will be made for stranded Australians.
Now the law prohibits more than two people gathering in public. That has consequences that may not have been thought about, such as, what about public transport, even given the 1.5 metre social distancing rule? Isn’t the bus, train, or tram a “gathering”? Can people from the same family, living in different households, which is common in this day of no-fault divorce (thanks Lionel Murphy), even meet now? Granny may not be able to meet the grandchildren in public to buy them an ice-cream. Just around another sharp corner, I suppose, there will be a rule of not even two people meeting, which means all industry, business everything, including police and law courts stop. Then the rats will really come out to play, when the cats have all fled. Game up, over to the survivalists, and warlords of the post-apocalyptic wastelands.