Is Europe learning to live with Covid unlike draconian Down Under?

It turns out our decision not to head to the naturist beaches of the south of France has paid off.  Word has reached us that one of our potential destinations has seen an outbreak and the friend who told us about it is fleeing north.

So glad we decided to stay in rural Dordogne rather than the more populous urban resorts of the French riviera. How horrendous it would have been to be caught up in a pop-up French coronavirus testing operation, waiting for the results or having to live with the worry of having caught it while being away from home.

This latest Covid saga has proved another knockback just as we were settling into the middle part of our three week French holiday.  It’s again making us question whether we should have come at all and will be even more careful about our sanitisaing and social distancing in the remaining 10 days of our break.

Overall it still feels like it was the right decision to come away as I’m slowly reaching the conclusion that living life in constant fear of Covid is no way to live life at all.  I’m hoping this is a viewpoint I don’t die to regret.

Infections in France continue to rise – 4,900 I read yesterday – though this growth in numbers is partly explained by the massively increased testing of more than 700,000 people last week.

I’m reassured to read that living with the virus seems to be what’s happening here in France.  When lockdown began France had one of the strictest regimes but now with coronavirus cases increasing President Macron has ruled out another national lockdown.

This is in stark contrast to what I read about the other side of the world. Last week, the whole of Auckland in New Zealand was sent into lockdown after the government announced just four new cases in the city. A total ban on foreign arrivals has endured for months, with catastrophic results for tourism which employs 8.4 per cent of the workforce.

New Zealanders returning from abroad must pay to isolate in military-guarded facilities, to the tune of more than £1,500 per head. One man recently received a six-week jail sentence for hugging a friend quarantining in a detention centre.

Though the country has not recorded a single covid death since May, the government decided to postpone the Autumn elections following the small-scale outbreak this month. 

In Australia, residents must apply for permission to travel abroad and three out of every four applications are rejected. 

These bans put Australia on par with Belarus, Namibia and the Ivory Coast for restrictions on international travel.  It’s not just overseas travel that is banned, but internal travel too which is destroying tourism and airline industries.

Western Australia has passed the rule that you cannot enter the state from any other part of the nation unless you are granted an exemption. There is no timetable for the border to reopen.

As of Monday this week, there are no active cases of coronavirus in the Northern Territory. There hasn’t been one for over a week. Yet for the safety of its citizens Western Australia has closed the borders to Northern Territorians.

The Northern Territory – home to Uluru – has declared its borders will not return to normal for 18 months. Melburnians aren’t allowed to travel further than three miles from our house. 

I find this normalisation of Government over-reach and the draconian restrictions of personal liberty that inevitably follow deeply troubling and all this is happening in supposedly free and democratic countries. The strategy of attempting to eliminate Covid has made these countries a hostage to fortune, how long can they resist the inevitable? The trouble is changing course will be seen as politically toxic and  an admission of failure.

I’ve complained bitterly about aspects of the UK Government’s response to the pandemic but at least there seems some attempt to balance risk aversity with liberty.  Maybe the more nuanced approach of Western European democracies, despite all the mistakes,  may prove the correct course in the long-run.  I hope so, because the personal freedoms we take for granted depend on it.

Published by brianjonesdiary

Dad, husband, brother and son. Interested in travel, politics, sport, health and much more. Semi-retired and aiming to making the most of life as I approach my sixth decade.

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