Australians are known for their mate-ship and for banding together in times of crisis, but this coronavirus is pushing us apart. It is forcing us to distance ourselves, both physically and socially, not only from our friends but in some cases even our families.

On Monday my brother-in-law and his wife, who had gone to the UK for the funeral of a close family member, missed out by one day on getting back into Australia before the borders were closed. As a result they are now under house arrest! They are banned from leaving their suburban

Paddy Hannan is not very talkative, but at least we don’t need 4sq metres of separation.

property. In spite of living within half a km of the beach, they are not even allowed to go down there for a walk! Family members like us can deliver food and other essentials, if we can find them on the supermarket shelves, but we must leave them on their doorstep. We, or they, face a 50,000 dollar fine if we so much as enter their house. My sister-in-law is grieving her beloved aunt and we can’t even give her a comforting hug, even if we wear a surgical mask and gloves! How un-Australian is that? Normally healthy people are beginning to lose their confidence. I see them shrinking into themselves and becoming depressed. We know that persistent feelings of helplessness and despair suppress our immune systems. That creates a vicious circle we can certainly do without at the moment. Have we become completely paranoid? And is it the paranoia that will kill us more quickly than the virus itself?

As a writer I am used to isolation. And I am comfortable working on line. But there are times when we all need real contact, in real time, with real people. Let’s take sensible precautions, of course, but let’s make sure we don’t forget what it is to be human.

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