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May 6, 2020 Guest Posts Susie Elelman 268 views

When the going gets tough, the tough get going – I’m sure when Joseph Kennedy, father of US President John F Kennedy, coined that proverb back in 1960s, he could never have imagined it would be so apt in 2020.

Nor would he have ever considered that the entire world would be universally facing and fighting the same deadly enemy, already responsible for killing tens of thousands of people, without any of us even being able to look it in the eye.

I’m old enough to remember the SARS, MERS and Ebola outbreaks but they always seemed oceans away. Over the last three decades the only viruses that could scare the life out of me were the ones that could infect our computers, rendering them useless but it was easy to pay for and install anti-viral software to keep them at bay.

For me Covid-19 acquired a face or faces when the rich and famous like our future King – Prince Charles, US actor Tom Hanks and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the virus and fortunately enough they all survived.

I knew then that this coronavirus didn’t discriminate and no matter how wealthy you are, you can’t buy your way out of getting it. Having said that it’s sad to see, in many countries, how there are far too many people, who have lost their lives because they couldn’t afford to get medical treatment. I’m so grateful to be living in Australia with our health system.

Despite what seemed to be insurmountable odds, we have been more fortunate than most other countries, in relation to the number of cases and lives lost in Australia, and I’m sure what has helped us is being an island and as our former Prime Minister Paul Keating most eloquently put it; we are at the arse end of the world.

How quickly and well Aussies have adapted and adjusted to this new way of life has also helped stem the tide.

The ongoing widespread impact this pandemic has brought about is devastating and immeasurable. Many people world-wide are suddenly without jobs or any means of support.

The entertainment industry is one of the biggest casualties in all of this with many of my mates now without any gigs or income.

We are all affected in some way or another as we learn to live within this highly fragile new reality.

From health concerns to the slowing economy, social distancing and school closures; I don’t know anyone who isn’t struggling in some way or another.

The financial impact is one thing but the heavy psychological toll this virus has imposed on humanity is another.

The saddest moment to date for me was learning that my big brother Leon had passed away on Easter Sunday after a hard fought five year battle with cancer and that there would be no funeral, which makes the grieving so much harder.

It has, however, been easier for me to self-isolate and abide by the physical distancing regulations as I live by myself and don’t have any children and I’ve been freelancing since 1990 so I am also used to working from my home office but I don’t envy families, who are having to home school and also try and work from home too.

Every parent I speak with, who is grappling with home schooling, tells me they have a new found respect for teachers.

I’m always in awe of the front line responders, many of whom were at the forefront during the recent bushfires and are now busy fighting this public health crisis. These health workers and police deserve a medal.

If we learn anything from the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle, when all the passengers were allowed to disembark without being temperature checked or tested, with catastrophic consequences; it is that we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Therefore, it is imperative and incumbent on each of us to take personal responsibility to stay safe and not put anyone else’s life in danger.

I liked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approach to the virus and that’s to think like we actually have it and act accordingly. She also reassured children that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were considered essential workers and they could continue their valuable work.

Exercise plays an important part in helping us keep our anxiety and depression under control and to expel some of the energy from all the extra food many of us seem to be consuming.

I try and go for a powerwalk every morning and pick up supplies while I’m out if I need them before coming home and staying safe.

When I do venture out, I fortify myself before and afterwards and here’s what makes up my regime;

  • Regularly flush out my nostrils with Fess, a saline solution
  • Always wear white cotton gloves when I leave the house and soak and wash them after each use. I’m always shocked at how dirty they get in that short time
  • Keep a safe distance from people I encounter along the way
  • Smile and say hello to those I pass
  • Show patience in queues and respect those who serve me
  • Discard my shoes at the door when I get home and wash my hands immediately and frequently with soap and warm water
  • Disinfect anyone who needs to enter my apartment and limit those who do.
  • Gargle each day with Betadine anti-viral and anti-bacterial throat treatment
  • Take my mobile phone with me that has the Government’s Covid-Safe App installed to help relax the isolation restrictions while still remaining safe

It’s been bizarre watching the frenzy over toilet paper and hand sanitisers and I’m impressed with the methods some supermarkets have taken to handle their distribution.

The best one was the local IGA at Callala Bay on the south coast of NSW, who took all the toilet paper off their shelves and wouldn’t sell it to anyone. Instead they gave each shopper two rolls free when they came through the checkout with the rest of their shopping.

I’m the eternal optimist and without diminishing the adverse effects many people are struggling with, there are still many positive sides to come out of this Covid-19 madness.

  • Advanced Technology – We are extremely lucky to be living in an era with such advanced technology that allows our business meetings, medical appointments and social engagements to still be conducted face-to-face but remotely through apps like Zoom and Google Meet and Tele Health. It means families can see their loved ones and feel connected.
  • Less pollution in the world. Every day we see wonderful examples of Mother Nature restoring our planet.

Venice is seeing fish and swans returning to their canals that were once choked with motorboats and gondolas.

India is in awe seeing parts of the Himalayas that haven’t been visible in living memory.

Experts predict that since most planes have been grounded and most of us are in lockdown we will see the biggest fall in CO2 emissions since WWII.

Satellite images and readings of air pollution show the regions hardest hit by the virus in China and Italy have had a dramatic decline in pollution levels.

While humans in India are in lockdown, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles have come ashore for the first time in many years to lay sixty million eggs.

  • Pets Getting More Attention – Members of your fur family are getting more walks, treats, affection and attention than ever before and it’s been proven that patting a pet can help to lower your blood pressure.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has no evidence that companion animals and household pets can become infected or spread Covid-19 and animal shelters are seeing a record number of pet adoptions to help people cope while in self-isolation.

  • Repurposing businesses – Many Australian breweries and distilleries that would have gone broke have been able to switch production and are now making hand sanitisers.
  • Less car accidents – With fewer cars on the road we are seeing fewer car accidents and in turn less road fatalities.
  • Milder Flu season – With winter just around the corner and us not being in physical contact with others, it’s estimated we will have a milder cold and flu season with fewer people dying from influenza.
  • Aussie researchers are at the vanguard of developing and testing potential cures and vaccines.
  • Many more people are surviving – Every single one of the tens of thousands of deaths from this pandemic is tragic but the upside is that hundreds of thousands more people have now recovered from it.
  • Most children seem to be immune – Children are usually bug catchers and are quick to spread the flu, head lice and some contagious diseases but it would seem that novel coronavirus causes little to no serious complications in most children.

We all want this virus to be under control as soon as possible and many are hoping things will go back to normal, whatever ‘normal’ is, aside from a cycle on a dishwasher and washing machine but I think a lot of conditions we are currently living under will remain permanently in one form or another.

I’m extremely proud of the way most Australians have responded to this unprecedented contagion and this has played an enormous role in helping to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus.

We need to bear in mind that as we start to relax some of those constraints, we must have patience and understand it will be quite some time before everything is open and operating again.

At the moment most of us can only move around within our own postcode but soon we’ll be able to travel intrastate, then interstate and eventually to other parts of the world.

There are still many unanswered questions, like can you catch Covid-19 again? And at what point do we think it is safe enough to start letting down the draw bridge on the moat around the castle we call Australia and give overseas visitors entry?

As our politicians, medical experts and decision-makers shape our path out of this dark situation, it’s important for us remain vigilant, and not to become complacent or drop our guard so we don’t create a spike in the infections and we find ourselves back in complete lockdown again.

Dr. Jody Carrington, a Clinical Psychologist from Alberta Canada has some great advice for dealing with the epidemic.

She says if we’re going to get through these hard things then we need find the joy, stay connected in this process and to laugh whenever we can.

Dr Carrington says there’s no replacement for face to face connection as people yearn to see each other, so instead of sending a text message or making a phone call to a friend or loved one, she suggests making it a video message.

She also encourages everyone to remind first responders and people on the front lines that they matter and are heroes.

Dr Carrington believes kindness, empathy and gratitude are also contagious; even more contagious than the coronavirus.

We don’t have the equivalent of a virus protector and a vaccine is still sometime away but we know we will eventually get past this.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take the advice Ellen deGeneres gives out at the end of every one of her TV shows and that is to be kind to one another and I’d simply add; make sure you’re also kind to yourself.

Stay strong and safe cheers susie

Susie Elelman AM – Author, TV & Radio Broadcaster

About The Author - Susie Elelman

Susie Elelman is an Australian television presenter, radio broadcaster, and author, most famous for her appearances on daytime television in Australia. She has been an ambassador of the Australian Menopause Centre since 2016 and it is a pleasure to have such an influential figure support our work.

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