“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
So goes the famous line uttered by Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather Part III.
Those who have seen the celebrated trilogy would know that the character was mistaken to think he was ever truly “out”.
Anyone who thinks we are out of the COVID-19 pandemic is similarly mistaken.
It is true that lockdowns are a thing of history, students are back at school and we are travelling again. Cafes and bars are full, masks are non-compulsory and life as we know it seems to be back to normal.
But at the same time, due to the subvariants of omicron circulating in the community, cases are spiking again. The cold weather, a high-prevalence of influenza (after two years of closed borders delivered mild flu seasons) and other illnesses are only compounding the problem.
The statistics today are more dire than at any time during the pandemic. 12,984 new cases and 28 deaths were recorded in Victoria in the 24 hours until Wednesday 11.30am while NSW saw 15,352 new cases and 20 deaths in the 24 hours to Tuesday 4pm.
It is true that we cannot let ourselves become prisoners to the pandemic. We cannot afford the stringent measures that were necessary in 2020 and 2021, for which economically and socially, we are still paying the price. Life does and should go on.
But we can and must do what we can to be vigilant.
We urge those who are eligible for a fourth vaccination to go and get it with haste. Similarly, those who have not had an influenza vaccination need to be protected.
Social distancing is still important. Mask wearing may not be compulsory, but adds an extra layer of protection in situations where physical distancing is not possible.
People with symptoms should isolate and get tested, if possible, by PCR, with those who return a positive result consulting their GP to see if they are eligible for antiviral medication.
Most of us won’t become seriously ill with COVID. But we could pass it on to someone vulnerable who will, and that could be someone we love.
In The Godfather, Michael Corleone also gave a speech in which he said everything he did was for his family. Together, let’s look out for ours.