12 Jun Covid Lockdown Brissy style, our March, April, May 2020
During the unexpected time of Covid-19 it has been difficult being far away from family and friends in the US, however, we are feeling grateful to be currently living aboard Maia in East Coast Marina, (near Brisbane, Australia). Staying connected via the world wide web with social media, zoom and phone calls has made it easier. As with many other countries, we are in self-isolation.
In Queensland, our “strict” lockdown was from mid-March to mid-Mayish. Each State has been responsible for setting its restrictions and recommendations. (I assume the Australian Federal government had a basic mandate that the states were to follow.) During the first several weeks of March there was talk of a lockdown. By March 22, an announcement was made that restaurants, pubs, indoor venues, shops, churches were to close. Queenslanders were told to self-isolate and stay in “their homes”. We were allowed to go out for “essential trips”; food shopping, doctor visits, and are thankful that physical exercise was encouraged. We have been enjoying walking and riding our “push bikes” (bicycles) for exercise and making trips to the grocery stores. There are beautiful walks and bike ways to explore and a more vigorous walk can be had if we cross the street and cruise through the adjoining hilly neighborhood. The schools stayed open, but I believe it was a choice each family could make whether their children went to school or not. I read a government statement that said they felt it was important for families with working parents to have an option to keep kids in school.
Social distancing became the norm, credit cards were required most places (no handling of cash). Residents were encouraged to stay in their neighborhoods and shop in stores closest to their homes. Here in Oz, many grocery stores are located in malls. Walking into our closest Mall, (a smaller one in comparison to others), things were quiet, and surreal. Many of the smaller shops were closed, however, grocery stores, liquor stores, variety stores (K-mart, Target, discount stores), and Barber Shops were open. The strangest thing was seeing the closeness of the people with the barbers and the number of people in the barbershops! A few of the “cafes” were open for take away. Hand sanitizer became available for use as you were walking into the mall buildings and stores (however it was not obtainable for individual purchase). Grocery stores had employees as greeters, squirting people with hand sanitizer and some were wiping down the grocery carts with antiseptic. We began seeing signs recommending social distancing.
Restaurants and bars closed, though a few restaurants offered take-away drinks and meals. Marinas were open; we needed permission to enter the office. Haul-out facilities and boatyards remained open. The Marine store (near us) was open, but only a few people were allowed in the store at a time. (The bigger marine stores were closed, eventually they opened for pickup only.) Home Improvement stores stayed open, a limited number of customers where allowed in the store, one-way traffic began through the store, with signs posted only 4 customers per aisle. Sporting good stores remained open and business increased for some, as people began recreating more and needed to purchase running shoes, and other “essential gear”.
In the larger stores we began seeing X’s as where to stand in the check-out lanes, and eventually plexi-glass barriers went up at cashier stations. Towards the end of May, restrictions were eased, restaurants opened with minimal seating, (you needed to sign in if you sat down) as well as many of the other retail stores reopened. Currently, hand sanitizer is available, and use is encouraged everywhere. Handwashing signs and social distancing signs are posted in many locations.
During the first month of lockdown it took some time for information to become well-defined. Initially it was not apparent what type of boating was allowed. The Marina we were in has a storage facility for smaller motorboats, the weekend just before the lockdown started it was crazy busy with people going out on the bay. It eventually became clear that people would be allowed out for day trips as boating was considered a type of exercise, but still no one seemed sure if it was ok to go out for a multi-day sail or possibly cruise to another marina. However, April 12, as friends were preparing to leave the dock (as they had been planning to do for months), the specifics came out that you were only allowed to go out on day trips and they wanted people to stay within a restricted area. At this point some marinas closed their docks to incoming boats. We also found out that most Australians were not allowed to leave the Country. They had to apply for special circumstances to leave and, as I understand it, state that they would remain out of Australia for at least a year or more. This would appear to be because the government does not want their citizens leaving, going to other countries, picking up the virus and returning to Oz.
Queensland was fortunate that during lockdown the number of Covid-19 cases flattened and became under control. By the beginning of June, the total number of cases that had been counted was around 1000. For the remainder of June there were no new cases reported!
Lockdown for us did not feel very constrictive as we are used to entertaining ourselves aboard Maia. We have settled into our cruising lifestyle; working on boat projects, reading, writing, watching movies, playing games, spending time together, communicating with loved ones back home, preparing Maia for sailing and pushing ourselves to get out to enjoy the beautiful weather and landscape here in Australia (it is easy to get comfy on Maia). However, the socializing with others was missed….
On June 5, after six months of being securely tied to the dock at East Coast marina, Queensland opened for in-state travel. It was time to set sail! We had decided to sail North to the Great Barrier Reef!