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Staying safe and healthy in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic

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We are all in this together amid the COVID-19 pandemic (image released by the National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons).

William Olson discusses the effects of COVID-19 on the population, casual and hospitality workers, and how we can all get through this crisis.

AS MEMBERS OF our society continue to face times of unprecedented crisis during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, each person faces their own challenges to emerge as unscathed as possible when it's declared over and done with.

There's no question about it: our lives have been turned upside down from the moment that the pandemic was declared, regardless of whether that declaration has come from heads of the Australian Government or from the World Health Organisation, or anywhere in between. Besides maintaining social distance requirements if going out in public, people have experienced new realities: work being cancelled, business layoffs, not being able to see family or friends, unable to hug someone or shake hands with them, or other situations violating what would have been viewed as “normal” parts of everyday life.

As a result, the effects of this pandemic have touched all of us, even among those who haven’t directly been infected by the COVID-19 virus itself.

One could argue that the pandemic has essentially appeared to have been ripped from a horror flick come to life, or a first-hand lesson in "Epidemiology 101" about "patient zero" or how a disease spreads in a lethal manner over time. Feeling like this is too surreal to be true. All one has to do is to step outside of their home for even a couple of minutes to get a dose of fresh air, take out the bins, put out or bring in the laundry, or check for mail in the letterbox to look around in awe and amazement at the seemingly apocalyptic world around us.

Evolving from it has been the “stay at home” directive – regardless whether it comes from an edict from the authorities or seen as a Twitter-friendly hashtag. And it has been a rather sensible and easy-to-apply rule for every individual to do their part to limit the spread of the virus.

It is simple and states in three words exactly what needs to be done. Stay at home. No matter the manner and reason why it is applied – by self-sequestering or laying low to keep from getting the virus, or being forced to self-isolate under the worst-case scenario of contracting the virus – it does pose the best, most appropriate means of not coming down with what equates to the plague of the modern age.

Personally, at this writing, I am commencing week five of my own self-sequestering.  Prior to all of this, as the pandemic was starting to hit with its full force in Australia, I was told by one manager at one of my various jobs in the catering and events sector in Melbourne’s bustling hospitality industry: “prepare yourself for two months of no work, at least.”

As if that wasn’t already whacking me across my backside like a ton of bricks, then comes the ongoing reminder from the Federal Government, to look forward to six months of these conditions during the pandemic.

We in the hospitality industry all just experienced – in a matter of days, if not hours – having had all upcoming and potential shifts cancelled, equating to hundreds of hours around AFL and NRL matchday and non-matchday events, set-up shifts, and the odd functions here and there. This is extremely difficult to process for one person, let alone thousands of members of an entire industry, mostly surviving on casual wages from those week-to-week shifts.

As soon as it became obvious that those shifts were inevitably cancelled, I feel fortunate that I got onto NewStart quickly enough to ensure that my household’s rent, bills and groceries – complemented with the aid of supplements, stimulus and all – would be taken care of. 

Others, such as some work colleagues, may have to play catch-up compared to me; nonetheless, it is good that the Morrison Government laid the groundwork for the provisions which have been made available for the masses in any industry that has had to shut down over this time of the pandemic.

But even with this newfound-yet-temporary financial security, being forced to remain behind the closed doors and the four-plus walls of one’s own dwelling does give one feelings, ranging from dread and isolation to loneliness and desperation. 

And that’s to name but a few of the feelings and emotions that could go through one’s head, if sequestered anywhere from two months to half a year. Or, heaven forbid, longer.

Therefore, the need to keep one’s sanity intact during these times of great stress-induced uncertainty remains any person’s biggest challenge during this time. But alas, simple acts exist that anyone can do to deal with the feelings and emotions stifling them – checking in on your family and friends via a phone call, text or social media; having a fun “virtual drinks session” with friends with any of a number of face-timing apps, such as Zoom or Houseparty; doing any sort of regular domestic chores, or actions that create some routine of normalcy; or maintaining a regular diet and rest regimen. 

And most of all, as we’re instructed “to be kind to each other” and that “we’re all in this together”, that spirit of community and togetherness can help raise individuals’ morale as well as that of a nation.

William Olson is a freelance journalist and hospitality professional. You can follow William on Twitter @DeadSexyWaiter.

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