We’ll stick together while staying apart

 

We’ve all read too many headlines along the lines of ‘these are strange times’ and I will resist following suit in this Final Word, though it is a sentiment that is hard to deny.

By the time this issue of InMotion goes to press, Melbourne will be in its first week of a six-week State of Emergency. It seems that many parts of the world are enduring second waves of this collective nemesis, never having quite recovered from the first wave.

In many respects, going into a second lockdown is harder than the first. Gone is the adrenaline, and what is left is a sense of dread and resignation, and the inevitable pondering of ‘when will this end?’

It is easy and understandable to be morose about it, but there are many positives. Firstly, when the crisis first hit, the health system swung into action to free up and build capacity, upskill its workforce and ready itself for the onslaught that thankfully never came.

It was a commendably swift and decisive feat that not all first-world health systems achieved.

Secondly, the vast majority of Australians did the right thing. It took some weeks for officials to work out the right shut-down plan, and in the meantime Australians began to physically distance themselves from others, to stop frequenting places they didn’t need to, and to take more care.

Not all of it was brilliant—we remember the fights over rolls of toilet paper in supermarkets— but we were more devoted to the collective good than we’ve been since World War II.

As a profession, we rose to the occasion. Public sector physios prepared for the task of supporting people with COVID-19, including in the ICU setting. By and large the private sector remained open to continue to offer essential services, and those which shut down did so to protect vulnerable patients.

The second lockdown in Melbourne reminds us that this is far from over. Other major cities may suffer the same fate, a third wave is a possibility for us all. The march towards a vaccine and pursuit of more effective treatment continues.

The challenge for us now is to settle in for the long- haul, acknowledge this isn’t a fleeting crisis and make lasting adjustments.

Some physical distancing and greater care for hygiene will likely stay for good. We need to shift away from behaviours that used to be lauded, such as working while unwell. Working from home for many will become the norm, to a greater or lesser extent, even in healthcare with the rapid adoption of telehealth. As our private and professional lives collide, changes and new norms will follow.

In the meantime, we focus on the good and the things we can change. We do our bit for those more vulnerable than us, and we remind ourselves that every generation before us had its crisis.

We persevere. Together.

 

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