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A view from Down Under: Laois woman on how Australia have fought Covid using quarantine

As Ireland grapples with the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalisations since the pandemic began – a look at how other countries are coping may give us an insight into how our lives will look in the future.

Former LaoisToday photographer Julie-Anne Miller headed to Australia this time last year – but little did she know how much the world would change from the time she left to where we are now.

However, despite landing on the opposite side of the world at the onset of a global pandemic, Julie-Anne has managed to set herself up in Sydney and is working for an insolvency firm near the iconic Sydney Harbour.

Most of us will have seen how the world’s best tennis players are not too happy with having to stay and quarantine in a hotel in Australia for two weeks after arriving in the country over the weekend ahead of the first Grand Slam event of the year.

And speaking on the Midweek Podcast with LaoisToday recently, Julie Anne explained how the quarantine process works, how much it costs and how strictly it is enforced.

She said: “Since before Christmas, all of the States are closed off from each other so if you do want to go from one State to another, you must go into a two-week quarantine – at your own expense. And it is the same for overseas travellers too.

“So basically if you fly into Australia now, you are brought on a bus driven by a policeman or an army officer and escorted to a hotel.

“You are put in a room and tested every couple of days. The army are in the corridors.

“Friends have told me how the soldiers march you off your bus, bring you to your hotel room and then stand outside until your quarantine is over.

“This costs around $3,000. There is no such thing as being able to self-isolate like we have at home – unless you are a citizen of the State I think.

“But if at that, the police will come to check on your house several times over the two weeks to make sure you are there.

“They are very, very strict about it.”

But Julie-Anne explained how this control of people moving around the country has led to relatively normal lives for those living there.

She said: “You have to check into bars and there is social distancing. But we can go for meals and drinks – Sydney has never been in lockdown and I am here seven months now.

“Australia in general has done a very good job of containing Covid. They are very good at tracing it whenever a couple of cases pop up.

“We had come back to almost normal just before Christmas. You could dance again in pubs, not as much social distance was required and it was getting really good.

“But then the weekend before Christmas, they had loads of new cases so Christmas and New Year’s plans fell through.

“So now we have some restrictions but we are certainly not as hard hit by it all as you seem to be back home.”

And while we’ve all been wearing masks in almost every setting for more than six months now, Julie Anne explained how that has only become mandatory in recent weeks.

She said: “I never had to wear a mask until a week before Christmas. It wasn’t compulsory on public transport.

“A few weeks before Christmas I flew up to meet friends in Byron Bay and nobody on the flight was wearing a mask. Things were very normal.

“Now masks are mandatory in shops and public transport – but only in the last few weeks. Now you can get a fine if you don’t wear one.”

Julie Anne also spoke about her plans for the future and the many Laois people that she has encountered on her travels.

For all of that and much more, check it out on Spotify below – or wherever you get your Podcasts.

SEE ALSO – Laois pub faces closure after licence renewal application rejected

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.