Why border could be closed for years
IN recent days it has appeared to this columnist that the experience of Queenslanders is much like that of a hero in a horror movie.
The star in such movies, of course, is always the one who somehow survives while all around him or her are chopped down by a frightening and merciless foe.
Aware of the terror close at hand, our hero jumps at shadows, wary that danger could lurk around any corner.
Although we have an incredible record of keeping COVID-19 at bay, we see a little of that kind of fear and panic in Queensland almost daily.
Witness the panic buying at the outset of the pandemic.
Witness the reaction in Noosa on Monday when it emerged that two teenage girls who had visited Sydney were present in a local shopping centre. They have since tested negative to the virus.
Witness the daily press conferences of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. Although they most usually have the good news of no new cases to share, their tone is relentlessly grave. The message is always that, like the hero of our horror flick, we risk a grisly outcome if we let down our guard.
There is, however, one key difference, one vital moment missing from our narrative. After two hours of spine-tingling terror, our horror movie hero invariably emerges blinking into the daylight, ready to return to normal. The end credits roll. The movie has an end.
The one question nobody can answer right now is when our collective COVID-19 nightmare might also finish.
The omens are not good.
Victoria is not alone in its agonies. Worldwide, cases are rising fast, not falling.
Although four months away, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned families to expect a COVID-disrupted Christmas.
The virus - almost vanquished in May - appears more dangerous than ever thanks to the devastating plot twist which took place in Victoria. Borders which we previously thought safe to open may now be closed for months, even years.
A strong hint of what's ahead came from Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner yesterday, who said he was planning to keep border controls in place for at least 18 months.
"My advice to every Territorian is if you can stay in the Territory. You're safe here, don't go," he said.
"If you can, cancel your Christmas holiday plans and stay here in the Northern Territory.
"We're working towards at least an 18-month window from today towards the end of next year if how we are resourcing our borders."
With Ms Palaszczuk committed to keeping Queensland COVID-free, it's hard to imagine our border block being lifted any earlier.
She in not going to throw open the doors of our safe space while a deadly foe still lurks outside.
The only hope of real change appears to lie with the development of a vaccine, but even then, many experts urge caution, saying there is no guarantee a successful treatment will be developed any time soon.
"People have this Hollywood-esque belief in a vaccine, that scientists are just going to fix it," Dr Margaret Harris from the World Health Organisation told the BBC.
"In a two-hour film the end comes pretty quickly, but scientists aren't Brad Pitt, injecting themselves and saying 'we're all going to be saved'."
Salvation is clearly not in easy reach. The border will remain as it is for far longer than first imagined. There is little left for us to do but, like the movie hero, grit our teeth and make the best of it. To look out for each other by continuing to follow health advice and doing all we can to support local businesses.
Because this is one horror flick that's set to run and run.
CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE
SEVEN weeks ago this column called upon Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to take urgent action on the issue of child safety following a number of heartbreaking cases, urging her to "act decisively and act now." It is very heartening to note the report in today's Gold Coast Bulletin that the Premier has done just that, ordering her ministers to set aside partisan politics and work with the LNP on what really matters - the best outcome for children. Ms Palaszczuk deserves great credit for her leadership in doing so. Huge credit too to Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates, whose tireless campaigning has brought us to this point. This column wishes them every success.
Originally published as Why border could be closed for years