Covid in Regional NSW

Periodically I try to capture a snapshot of where things are at in my bit of regional NSW with Covid, vibrational energies not withstanding.

Generally, our vaccination rate in NSW is high, with just under 95% of people over 16 fully vaccinated. About 80% of children aged 12-16 are also vaccinated, and that number is growing. It’s fascinating watching the discourse play out now. If you’re vaccinated in NSW life is mostly back to normal, with a couple of exceptions – checking into venues, shops etc.,. and wearing a mask in public indoor places (like shops). If you’re unvaccinated, you remain under lockdown, which is having peculiar effects that I have described recently.

The question now is, what will things look like in winter 2022? Increasingly our media seems polarised between the Nordic countries’ experiences and the British Isles. The Danes, Swedes and Norwegians are, we are told, more or less back to normal, with extremely high vaccination rates (although not as high as NSW). As case numbers rise, they are considering bringing back vaccination passports for entry to public places, something I suspect NSW will also consider, although our vaccine mandates potentially mean this won’t be required, as many shops etc.,. have vaccinated staff as well as patrons.

The other pole is Ireland, where cases are rising steeply despite a very high vaccination rate (again, not as high as NSW). The Irish government is apparently considering restrictions again, as their ICUs reach capacity. It’s worth noting that half of those in ICU are unvaccinated. This is truly astonishing, in a country with such high vaccination rates, and suggests that the spread of the virus is now truly ‘finding everyone’.

I suspect our future lies somewhere between the two. Almost all vaccinated people who require hospitalisation with Covid are very old or have multiple pre existing conditions. Australia is already ‘boosting’ those in this category. The unvaccinated will remain the same – those who are now unvaccinated are the small, hardened minority and won’t get the jab under any circumstances. In Australia we should expect them to comprise somewhere between half to about 80% of all ICU cases, over the next year.

Neither the Danish nor the Irish have as high vaccination rates as Australian teenagers. In both of those European countries, schools are significant contributors to the spread. However, the Danish are much healthier than the Irish, and both countries have an older population than Australia.

Both countries have concerns about Covid and the flu, but it remains to be seen how much the latter will impact these societies over winter. I strongly suspect that Covid will be the ‘new’ flu, a much more virulent disease that will carry off many of the people who may have otherwise died of flu. Covid also seems to leave some people with health conditions that will make them more susceptible to flu.

So, what will Australia look like over the next few months? I think we will have our ‘hot vax summer’, and the rates of Covid will remain relatively low. I think NSW will bring in mandatory Covid vaccination for at least high schoolers, and probably primary school children, for 2022. This will bring our vaccination rate up to the likes of places like Malta. Winter will see a resurgence, and Covid will ‘find’ those who’re unvaccinated, and the vulnerable who are ‘un-boosted’. This I think will have a real impact on Aboriginal communities in particular.

And I do think that as numbers rise, there will be inevitable pants-shitting and possibly the vaccine passes (which are still in use now but promised to be ended in mid Dec) will come back into force. Possibly this might be done on a regional basis – for instance, in areas with lower vaccination rates and also a high number of older residents, such as the Northern Rivers.

Many people who are unvaccinated are simply, ‘waiting it out’ – waiting until December the 18th when all restrictions are set to be lifted. They will go back to their casual jobs etc.,. and life will continue as normal, until it is all upended again at the beginning of winter.

May we live in interesting times.

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