Opinion: We’re back

Fire up the barbecues. Decorate the Christmas tree. Deck the halls with holly – for ‘tis the season to be jolly.

The Christmas Grinch has apologised.

And the borders are now open … for the time being.

We can all look forward to a merry Christmas with family and friends – but with only 50 guests permitted at a time (30 in Victoria), COVID is a great excuse not to invite the relatives you don’t like!

Social distancing is still encouraged. The two elbow embrace beats kissing old Uncle Bert with his bad breath. And COVID safety suggests that we should not clink glasses – but maybe tap your butter knife gently on your glass to keep the spirits merry.

Going out is, of course, now back on the agenda. Most restaurants can reopen with 2 square metres of space per person, although there are still total limits.* But the Christmas smorgasbord is probably no more – which may be a positive thing for our waistlines.

Overall, Australia has done well. We have a very low COVID infection rate and a correspondingly low death rate – unlike many other parts of the world, which are looking at a long, bleak winter.

Many people complained about the border closures and restrictions, but we are now reaping the benefits and we will be able to enjoy a relatively normal holiday period.

Local tourism is booming, with lots of regional venues booked out for some time to come. Many restaurants are also experiencing long term bookings. Things are definitely looking up. There is a sense of energy back in the market. There may be no fireworks, but our lives have certainly lightened up.

As I wrote last week, there have been some casualties, including some high-profile venues like the d’Arenburg Cube in McLaren Vale, ARC Dining in Brisbane, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay in Sydney, Restaurant Orana in Adelaide, Shark Fin in Melbourne and, of course, Sizzler. They will be missed, although others will no doubt take their space.

We have all rediscovered the benefits of takeout. We have learned how to cook, bake and ferment – or not. We have discovered local suburban diners and amazing little cafés. And we have embraced the best of Australian cuisine – a fusion of everything good. We have mastered the Zoom meeting, re-evaluated family life and enjoyed working from home. Our dogs have lapped up lots of attention and have been well walked. And our cars have not needed servicing for some time.

So now we can get together and share our stories and journeys of discovery – just so long as we stay 1.5m apart! We can return to some form of normality with a renewed sense of life and community spirit. Some of us may continue to work a few days a week from home. Many will continue to enjoy cooking and being with family. And everyone is looking forward to getting out and about again.

But it is not over. COVID is still dangerous and virulent. It has changed our lives. Yet in some ways it has opened our eyes to a better, more community spirited and less hectic life.

A word of caution: we must not be complacent. The virus could still come back to bite us. There are some who want the one person per 2m2 rule relaxed. No – we must still social distance. We must still be conscious of good hygiene. And we must still register.

But that does not mean we cannot still have fun. So, get out and enjoy. Explore your local regions. Go see Australia. Now is the time to support our fabulous hospitality industry.

*This information is based on online Health Department guidelines and may vary from state to state. Please check with your local health authorities.

Photo by Ondrej Machart on Unsplash

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