For grey nomads who thought the nightmare of last year’s Covid-inspired travel restrictions were largely a thing of the past, the last month or so has been something of a wake-up call.
The arrival on these shores of the more contagious Delta variant has been labelled a ‘game changer’. In recent weeks, we have seen Perth, Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney locked down, and also the re-emergence of the dreaded hard state borders.
With the Sydney outbreak still very much ongoing, it is suddenly a Big Lap of incredible uncertainty once more. Grey nomads everywhere are having to keep an anxious eye on daily news conferences to be sure the nature of their trip isn’t about to change.
While short-term travel restrictions are an immediate concern for grey nomads, there is also a growing awareness that the virus will change things long-term. National Cabinet has now agreed to a four-phase plan to get Australia back to something resembling our pre-Covid way of life.
And there appears to be a reluctant acceptance that, at some stage, we will have to live with the virus … and that will mean different things for the jabbed and the jabbed-nots. While there is no timeline or specific vaccination target yet attached to the plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated that ‘Phase 2’ is likely to kick in some time in the first half of 2022.
That is when, assuming the country has reached vaccination levels of probably around 70-80%, the current priority of suppressing transmission of the virus will give way to a focus on the prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation and deaths.
It is thought that domestic travel restrictions would rarely be needed by then but, importantly, fully vaccinated people will be treated differently than those who are not in the event of any lockdowns or border closures.
The idea of letting virus ‘go’ at some stage in the future is a difficult one for Australians who have become accustomed to days of zero community transmission cases – to get their heads around.
Veteran traveller Jerry Mark is wary of what lies ahead.
“I know England is about to lift all of its Covid restrictions and there are a lot of people who are immunocompromised, or who aren’t vaccinated, or are simply older, who are understandably very anxious about it,” he said. “With the huge exception of Victoria’s second wave, it feels to me like Australia has largely escaped the Covid pandemic and sooner or later that is all going to change … and the Big Lap is going to change with it.”