We all understand that one day, we’ll have to just live with COVID. It’s not a virus that’s going to go away, and we can’t economically survive on constant lockdowns and limitations. But when it comes to the right time to reduce restrictions and not care about coronavirus – Christmas-time ain’t it.

The NSW government lifted the bulk of restrictions on the 15th December. Now, we don’t need masks unless we’re on public transport or on planes/at airports. Indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who aren’t fully vaccinated still have to wear them, but vaccinated staff don’t.

There are no density limits. QR check-ins? Gone. They’re now only required at high-risk venues – hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms, places of worship, funerals or memorial services, personal services like hairdressers and beauty salons, and limited hospitality settings (pubs, small bars, registered clubs and nightclubs), as well as indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people.

These are massive changes considering we a) now have a new COVID strain (Omicron) to deal with, that we really don’t know a lot about and b) it’s right before Christmas. Things are not like they were when the government first outlined the easing of restrictions roadmap, so why has the NSW Premier become so complacent on mask-wearing and QR check-ins in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Perrottet has always wanted to play the ‘Cool Dad’ to Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘Stern Mum’. Say what you want about Berejiklian, she was hell-bent on following health advice for most of her tenure. It felt like Dr. Kerry Chant and her team were, for the most part, listened to. Now, we have Chant begging NSW residents to continue wearing masks, while our Premier is going on about how he “hates” them.

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet arrives for a Covid-19 update on December 15, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Credit: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Here’s the thing. Masks are annoying, checking in is annoying. You know what else is annoying? Wearing condoms. Having to wear a helmet when you ride a bike. Seatbelts. Trying to get your dog on its lead when it’s being a brat. But we do these things because we are aware that they protect us and others from harm. So it is wild to me that we have a Premier who is out here sh*tting on masks and checking in, when these are two of the most crucial and documented ways in which we protect our communities from rampant COVID spread.

Not only that, but there has been no action taken to improve COVID testing capacity right now. Have you seen the queues? If we don’t make testing accessible, we’re absolutely going to see people with symptoms just not bothering to get tested – and some of those people will likely have COVID and pass it around their communities. Why has this government not stepped up and dealt with the overload? Not only have we got a far more fertile breeding ground for this virus now, we’ve also got a gauntlet to run if we even want to get tested. 

I may not be at high risk of contracting COVID and experiencing severe symptoms. But my dad is – he’s got a chronic lung infection and is 70 years old. I’d like to go to Christmas lunch and not feel like I’m likely to give him COVID. I think most of us would like to hug our grandparents this Christmas, see our immunocompromised and chronically ill friends, visit our relatives with cancer and feel confident that we have done everything possible to have protected them. 

Because this is what it comes down to – Perrottet might not give a sh*t about COVID spread right now, but those who are vulnerable sure do. We do these things for them, not for us. We wear masks and socially distance and are cautious so we aren’t contributing to what NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard is estimating could be 25,000 cases per come February.

We will have to learn to live with COVID eventually, but is Christmas the right time? Credit: Getty Images.

We also do it because we’re coming up to a critical time of year. In fact, we’re right in it – Christmas parties and celebrations have been a huge contributing factor to this case spike. We less than two weeks out from Christmas, and the government decides this is the right time to end restrictions? People often don’t show symptoms for days, sometimes over a week. Even if we’re really careful, we’re at great risk of passing the virus on to loved ones without even knowing it.

Like I said, yes eventually we have to just live with this – but why now? Why not keep these simple, low-impact restrictions in place until the festive season is over? Mandatory masks and check-ins do not affect the economy. But they can help lessen the risk of transmission. 

At the end of the day we can’t control what our government mandates. But we can do our best to protect others, and I beg you, please give a shit about everyone else. It’s not that hard to wear a mask, check in properly and lay low if you have COVID symptoms. Don’t do it for yourself, do it for those at risk.

Melissa is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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