Back in February and March when some Tasmanians dared to think that closing our borders might be a good strategy to combat the growing pandemic, they were initially dismissed as over-thinkers, perhaps even as nutters, in the sense that the Urban Dictionary might define as being “somewhat flamboyantly unbalanced or wildly eccentric”.
But those crazy notions, as we know, were soon transformed into sound principles and our island fortress has been so for the past six months.
One wag, a young person at that, suggested to me this week that it is so good we should have done it years ago.
Tasmanians have certainly become comfortable about it, and it’s hard to find too many with an opposing view when a conversation is started in just about any forum.
In terms of keeping Tasmania free from internal transmission of the virus, it is a strategy that – unless there is something that has not been shared with us – has worked remarkably well.
If the coronavirus is alive and well in Tasmania in September 2020 it is keeping a very low profile.
The health experts seem to be suggesting that testing a big cohort of the asymptomatic population won’t really tell us anything much at all.
If this is the case – and at the same time we are managing carefully who comes in to re-join the Tasmanian community or to spend time with us – then it perhaps raises the question how and when the decision will be made that, at least behind closed borders, we can do all the things that we currently cannot?
Numbers have been increased for the attendance at outdoor events to a level which will comfortably allow most local sport at least to resume activity as they have come to experience.
But not sufficiently to allow events such as Festivale to continue as they would wish.
There still seems to be an over-abundance of caution in relation to indoor activities like cinemas and live theatre.
There must be a point when we can start taking a few calculated risks in this regard.
And would it not be better to do it now when it is just we fortress dwellers than to wait until we are opening up to others?
It’s hard to argue that leaving it to the public health experts to date has not been in our best interests.
We are doing pretty well – for many Tasmanians life is surprisingly normal.
But a few things will change fairly soon.
JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments are about to reduce and there will be some businesses and their employees for whom JobKeeper will no longer be available at all.
There must be a point when we can start taking a few calculated risks …
Just how much JobKeeper has been significantly responsible for putting businesses in the position where right now they are no longer eligible for it might quickly become obvious for those that discover that without it they are not as viable as it may seem.
It’s more than possible that some have been able to deliver a better service because they have been able to engage staff to work longer hours.
And while Tasmanians look to have been generously parochial in supporting accommodation houses and tourist attractions within the state, even with the vouchers that bubble must eventually burst.
And for many providers anything might look good compared to the usual winter occupancy rates they experience.
Tasmanian schoolchildren have generally not been deprived of educational and extra-curricular experiences, certainly not compared to the cousins in Victoria.
But for many there’s a need to venture beyond our virus-free coastline either to expand their horizons generally or to engage in interstate sporting or educational contests.
Some of the latter can be achieved online but there is only so much of that and almost none in sport.
We need to start addressing how we can ensure that our best and brightest young people stay ahead of the game while our borders remain closed.
And still on the to-do list is the small matter of ensuring that any Tasmanians who find themselves elsewhere in the world and who want to come home can do so in a timely and cost-effective manner.
This is starting to get even more serious.
This week there have been scary predictions from British authorities as to how quickly and substantially a next wave might hit its shores especially as the colder months approach for them.
We can assume that there are not many places overseas where Australians find themselves in larger numbers than in the UK.
This needs to be actioned now – before it’s too late – both for those wanting to come home and for those who they want to come back to.
On so many of these issues the question should be why delay when the risk is low?
- Brian Roe, sports administrator