The state reached a significant milestone this week - 90 per cent of people aged 12 or more have had two COVID-19 vaccine doses. But there was little fanfare. The milestone was lost amid confusion, frustration and anger at the state's COVID restrictions.
The virus remains active, even in the south-west where we have been largely COVID-free, reminding us all we need to remain vigilant. But with 95 per cent of our region's population over 12 double vaccinated we are better prepared than we were a few months back when fear of contracting the virus gripped our every move.
The easing of restrictions after we hit vaccination targets was supposed to be a reward for our hard work and many of us thought the beginning of the end of restrictions dominating daily conversations. Instead the rules remain cloudy.
We are able to socialise in crowded hospitality venues without masks but we must wear masks in non-essential retail shops where you might be the only customer. Those vaccinated are allowed to shop while those not vaccinated are unable to enter non-essential businesses. But what constitutes essential? One Warrnambool hardware store which stocks essential items has been told non-vaccinated people are not allowed to enter.
The vaccination mandate helped drive us to the 90 per cent target but has it run its course? Premier Daniel Andrews has made it clear tough restrictions on non-vaccinated Victorians will remain well into 2022.
A health department spokesperson this week told us "some exceptions to Victoria's vaccine requirements exist in certain situations, but there is no exception to getting COVID-19".
"It can happen to anyone, and getting vaccinated provides the best protection against the risk of serious illness and going to hospital."
More than 95 per cent of eligible south-west Victorians understand that. But the rules for children are worrying. Unvaccinated children aged 12 and two months and over will only be allowed to click and collect at the library, unless they are on a school excursion. They can't try on new shoes unless at a podiatrist or physiotherapist. And until this week, unvaccinated youngsters were effectively excluded from end-of-year celebrations and excursions. Prominent paediatricians have warned bans on unvaccinated 12 to 15 year-olds risk further harming their mental health.
When the pandemic started "we were all in this together". Sadly, now we are not.
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