SSome expatriate Australians have expressed forgivable anger at being treated like second-class citizens throughout the pandemic.
But as the rest of the world emerges in a post-Covid world, some of us living abroad look at our home country and wonder if it offers us a home worth returning to. .
Some may ask the question simply because they don’t have the money to come back.
My home state of Queensland currently charges $ 3,710 for two weeks of confinement. With the suspension of Qantas international flights, there are thousands to spend before you can even refresh your heels in a Marriott for 14 days.
Even for those who can afford it, but still have to work for a living, two weeks at the hotel makes a visit impractical.
Obviously, this is intended as a deterrent. Anyone who is not rich or desperate will stay where they are, and thus reduce the burden of a patchwork of quarantine arrangements that have already met with multiple failures.
I, along with many other Australians residing in countries where vaccine deployment is more effective, am fully immunized. If the measures only concerned public health, that would make a difference. Currently, this is not the case.
This brings us to the political dimension of Australia’s response to Covid. For a quarter of a century, refugees have been used as a political football, as mandatory detention and widespread denial of resettlement are now bipartisan public policy.
It is no accident that many Australians seem to view the border closures as some kind of psychological safety blanket. Sealed borders – at national and state levels – have been popular and are now a lever that governments pull at the slightest hint of trouble. If they feel significant pressure to reopen the country, it is not evident in their actions.
For all of this, from where I stand, it’s not clear that Australian governments made the most of the opportunity they had when the virus was initially at bay.
In the months that Australians seem to have spent largely on interstate feuds, the United States has vaccinated more than half of its population.
There is a lot of criticism to be made for this. The federal government botched the purchases and did an appalling sales job on the Covid vaccine they managed to acquire.
State governments have shown widely varying competence in the management of epidemics.
But governments danced squarely with the selfishness and entitlement of a segment of the resident population.
Some have decided that the proposed vaccine is just not good enough for them, even though the chances of developing side effects from AstraZeneca are as low as four in a million for those over 55 years old.
These chances are much better than the chances of catching Covid-19, or being hospitalized, or dying once you have it.
Many people not only ignored this, but devised conspiracy theories claiming the vaccine was bought to fatten the wallets of government ministers.
I am fortunate to be able to envision the monetary cost of the return. Maybe I could even take the time. But what I have observed about Australia from abroad may be a more telling deterrent.
I look at Australia and see a claustrophobic, island place, which seems out of touch with the world that is recovering after the pandemic.
I also notice that Australians like to brag about their response to the pandemic.
It is true that apart from Victoria’s abnormal case, the outbreaks have been well contained, with contact tracing working well to contain them.
But it rarely seems to occur to Australians how lucky they were to have exclusive possession of an island. This island is not really a thoroughfare to anywhere else except New Zealand and the other island nations in the region, whose successes in controlling the epidemic have been even greater. striking.
The United States has been a relentless horror show in 2020 as the virus first increased in the spring and then even more aggressively in the winter. The Trump administration’s response was far from criminal.
Since January however, things have turned out quite differently, and medical workers, government officials and ordinary people have acted in ways that can only inspire feelings of loyalty.
Vaccines are administered freely wherever it can be practically done – in pharmacies, convention centers, government buildings and even open fields. Slowly, hesitantly, life begins to become recognizable again.
No sane person would say that the United States is better off for the enormous and ultimately unnecessary loss of life it has suffered. But that does mean that few people here – except the die-hard Trumpists of the conspiratorial right – are operating under any illusions.
Anyone who holds or receives a needle knows that Covid-19 is here to stay. Messages from agencies like the CDC have changed to talk about the need for reminders as new variations emerge.
This pathogen is now part of the furniture, like seasonal colds and flu, an omnipresent danger around which we will have to subtly but definitively restructure our lives.
AstraZeneca presents a low but manageable risk, especially for those over 59 years old. Covid-19 is a killer among us.
It is true that a rich and powerful country should never have collapsed in the face of the virus like the United States did in 2020.
But the same is true for Australia 2021, where the precious time advantage is wasted.
Despite the fact that I have been fully vaccinated for months and despite having the same passport as the residents, by the time Australia reopens, it is likely that I will not have seen a single member of my family for three years. I had the distinct impression – especially after Indian citizens learned that returning to Australia could land them in jail – that after political calculations on the
pandemic have been made, an expatriate’s passport is not worth much.
The country where I live as a guest treated me much better than the one that issued this passport. Maybe it’s time to talk.