The very first Covid cases were discovered in Australia two years ago today
Australia's world has dramatically transformed in the wake of disease's spread
From fretting over a few hundred cases, this month saw a daily peak of 153,000
Experts have differing views on what the future holds in the new Covid normal
Published: | Updated:
Fast forward two exhausting years later, and it's a very different Australia.
We've now had more than 2.25 million cases - 2 million of them just since Christmas - and more than 3,200 deaths, including more than 1,000 just since December 25.
It's been a devastating journey for many. Loved ones lost, key moments in life missed, families ripped apart, lives put on hold.
Two years ago today, on the eve of Australia Day 2020, the nation recorded its first Covid cases: One in Victoria and three in NSW, all arriving on flights from China (pictured Sydneysiders on Tuesday, two years after Australia's first recorded Covid case)
Just a few months earlier though the streets were grim and bare as lockdown kicked in (pictured, Sydney's abandoned CBD in June)
Once, not so long ago, we shook hands, we hugged. We kissed strangers. We thought we knew how to wash our hands properly or sneeze politely.
'Remote learning' was for bush kids and 'working from home' was a rare luxury. Australians could travel overseas without worrying about being allowed back home.
Imagine two years ago trying to explain you would need to spend hours tracking down a test kit to swab yourself for disease before meeting others.
Or being cut off from your elderly relatives in nursing homes while they died on FaceTime - and then not be allowed to go to their funeral.
Or cancelling your carefully-prepared dream wedding, over and over and over again, often losing your deposit or worse.
Australia has now had more than 2.25 million cases - 2 million of them just since Christmas - and more than 3,200 deaths, including more than 1,000 also just since Christmas (pictured, Covid testing in Sydney)
Who would have predicted our city streets would see weekly protests and riots where conspiracy theorists, neo-fascists, religious zealots and fitness freaks would join forces?
And that many of the protesters would rather risk injecting themselves with bleach or eat horse worming tablets than trust in modern medicine and proven vaccines?
Just two years ago, the world was very different.
In March 2020, international music acts like Hot Chip and New Order toured Australia, playing to crowds of thousands at packed venues where you only showed your ticket to get in.
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No QR code check-ins, no negative PCR or rapid antigen tests, no certificates of vaccination, no social distancing, no masks. Everyone singing, everyone dancing.
And then just a few days later, the music stopped.
Two years ago today, the World Health Organisation called on all governments to act as one as China warned of the 'grave situation' and the 'accelerating spread' of the lethal new flu emerging in Wuhan.
The US reported its third, fourth and fifth cases the following day as other nations around the world also discovered a handful of Covid victims each.
In Australia, the nation watched the pandemic begin to unfold across the world but largely kept the threat at bay until the cruise ship Ruby Princess docked in Sydney on March 19, 2020.
Australia watched the pandemic begin to unfold across the world but largely kept the threat at bay until the cruise ship Ruby Princess docked in Sydney on March 19, 2020 (pictured)
After a series of blunders, 2,700 people were allowed to leave the the ship, despite reports of infected passengers on board, many visibly coughing and spluttering.
At least 900 later tested positive, and 28 died.
Although it was later estimated just a further 62 people were infected by those on the boat, it was the catalyst for Australia to go into lockdown.
On March 20 2020, the nation was sealed off to non-Australians, with returning Aussies forced into mandatory two week quarantine. States began to close their borders too.
By March 28 2020, new daily cases had hit an early peak of 459 cases - with aged care centres hardest hit - before a national lockdown forced the numbers back down to under 20 a day by the end of April.
Aussies trapped overseas had to apply for one of a handful of places to get back in and faced extortionate air fares to fly home, yet celebrities managed to regularly fly in, given special circumstance exclusions, with their bills picked up by movie moguls.
A National Cabinet of state, territory and federal leaders was created to fight the virus and the government ran up eye-watering debt to bail out the nation and keep businesses alive as the country went into cold storage (pictured, Victoria Premier Dan Andrews)
A National Cabinet of state, territory and federal leaders was created to fight the virus and the government ran up eye-watering debt to bail out the nation and keep businesses alive as the country shut shop.
But government demands for a global inquiry into China's role and response to Covid sparked a Chinese trade boycott, smashing Australian exports and hurting the economy further.
Another outbreak at a Melbourne quarantine hotel in May saw Victoria go back into a punishing 112-day lockdown which at one stage peaked with 7000 active cases.
But through the combination of international isolation, localised lockdowns and strictly enforced restrictions, Australia managed to largely escape the carnage being seen overseas, as nation after nation fell victim to the deadly disease, with horrific consequences.
Sydney became a city divided between families enduring a grim lockdown in the west and the sunworshipping beachgoers in the east and north (pictured, beachgoers in Bondi)
When the US hit the tragic milestone of 500,000 deaths, Australia had barely 1,300 (pictured, a Covid patient in Sydney's St Vincent's Hospitsl ICU)
When the US hit the tragic milestone of 500,000 deaths, Australia had barely 1,300.
By the time vaccines became available, the country was complacent.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down the need for haste in rolling out the vaccines, insisting: 'It's not a race.'
Critics claim the complacency would later cost Australia dearly by not having sufficient supplies on order by the time the Delta wave hit in June 2021.
Suddenly, this new highly contagious and even more deadly variant began to sweep through the nation and Australia again went back into lockdown.
The federal govern,emt brought in the military to organise its distribution, led by Lt Gen John Frewen (pictured)
ADF personnel took to the streets to enforce lockdowns as huge areas of Sydney were sealed off (ipctured)
The vaccine rollout turned out to be a race after all. The government begged other nations for surplus vaccines and brought in the military to organise its distribution.
Meanwhile ADF personnel took to the streets to enforce lockdowns as huge areas of Sydney were sealed off.
Locals needed written permission to leave or enter the worst affected suburbs - and workers needed daily tests - while states battled states over whose lockdown was more effective.
Sydney became a city divided between families enduring a grim lockdown in the west and the sunworshipping beachgoers in the east and north.
Police checked vaccine status as some Sydneysiders outside the city's eastern suburbs relaxed on the beach through lockdown (pictured)
The vaccine rollout in the worst affected states of NSW and Victoria led the country, with massive take up quickly turning a disaster into a triumph, with world-beating vaccination rates.
But hardline states which had been less-affected by Covid like Western Australia and Queensland, thanks to strict and punishing border controls, lagged behind on double-vaccination and would later need to catch up rapidly.
With business on its knees from the repeated lockdowns, the double-dose vaccination program finally hit the landmark target of 80 per cent of adults over 16 in NSW by mid October and the nation cautiously began to re-open.
But by the time NSW hit 90 per cent in December and almost all Covid restrictions were removed, a new even more virulent strain had already hit Australia.
Domestic travel was axed early in the pandemic, with Qantas putting two-thirds of its staff on leave (pictured)
Aussies stranded overseas found it almost impossible to get home and faced extortionate air fares if they managed to get a ticket (Pictured, a family reunion in Brisbane Airport this week)
Omicron had first been identified in South Africa and it was about to rip through Australia like never seen before - and it was largely resistant to even the double-jabbed.
Suddenly there was a new race - the need to roll out the vaccine booster program.
Initially only available to those who had been double-jabbed at the start of the vaccination program in June, the bar was repeatedly lowered to allow more to become eligible for a potentially life-saving shot.
It's now just three months between a second vaccine jab and the third booster shot, dropped from six months in a matter of days.
The new variant was highly transmissible, more than any previous variant ever seen before, and although milder, it could still be deadly - and the massive rate of infection threatened to swamp the nation's health system.
The government ran up eye-watering debt to bail out the nation and keep businesses alive as the country went into cold storage (pictured, a Melbourne shopping centre in lockdown)
It coincided with end of Covid restrictions which allowed it to spread through the nation like no other strain.
Suddenly Australia has gone from fretting over hundreds of cases daily to facing more than 153,000 new cases a day at Omicron's peak on January 13.
The numbers are further skewed by the decision to restrict PCR tests after the system was swamped by demand, and the lack of rapid antigen tests.
Today, it seems the worst of the latest outbreak has now past in terms of daily new cases but deaths and hospitalisations could still rise in the two week wake of its peak.
Exhausted health care workers are praying the worst is over soon.
The booster program is still rolling out, with up to 250,000 shots a day, turning the tide on the latest outbreak, with the promise of yet another return to our new kind of normality.
Sydney re-opened on October 11 and locals rushed to enjoy their freedoms once more in the new normal (pictured)
Schools are set to return, domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are being abandoned.
It almost seems like life is set to return to normal.
Experts disagree on what exactly that will be though.
From an obsessive surface-scrubbing fear of the disease - and every stranger - the world has now eased into a more relaxed acceptance of Covid and the inevitability that we will now all catch it at some stage.
Many are even holding Covid parties in a bid to catch the virus in the hope they can move on.
The world has now eased into a more relaxed acceptance of covid and the inevitability that we will now all catch it at some stage (pictured, Sydneysiders enjoy the new normal)
But some experts still have a dark view of the future.
They fear the disease may yet mutate once more into a lethal, highly dangerous new form which could force us all back into lockdown and isolation.
Epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman warns that only 53 per cent of the world is currently double-jabbed...and the potential is ripe for more carnage in a new strain.
'That means there’s always a new chance of more variants arising,' he told SBS.
'We’re seeing lots of variants but none that are really dangerous. So Omicron was an exception and there’ll almost certainly be another one coming.
'[And] if it is to take over from Omicron, it has to be more transmissible.'
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant (pictured) warns the future will remain a halfway house of masks, restrictions and new drugs and vaccines to fight the disease and any new variants
Others, like NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant warn the future will remain a halfway house of masks, restrictions and new drugs and vaccines to fight the disease and any new variants.
'All of us would just like Covid to be gone... we would like to have one more round of vaccinations, and then have it as a done deal,' she said.
'From time to time we'll need to have advice about additional strategies - indoor mask wearing, limiting your household gatherings, meeting outside.
'There will be new vaccines and technologies that come to the fore in 2022.'
Others though are more optimistic. Dr Nick Coatsworth who was the face of the vaccination rollout, says 2022 will be the year our Covid hell ends.
Epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman warns that only 53 per cent of the world is currently double-jabbed...and the potential is ripe for more carnage in a new strain (pictured, international travellers at London's Heathrow Airport)
He predicts the disease will become endemic, future variants will be milder and far less lethal and regular Covid shots will keep the disease at bay for good.
'We will live our lives again as part of the incredibly social and incurably optimistic human species that thrives on this planet,' he wrote at New Year.
'Our community is ready and can move to a phase of living with COVID-19 as an endemic virus.'
Dr Nick Coatsworth (pictured) who was the face of the vaccination rollout, says 2022 will be the year our Covid hell ends
He added: 'We can be rightly proud of what we have achieved as Australians in the face of what was the challenge of our lifetime.
'We will emerge a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation for our efforts.'
And even pessimistic Professor Esterman agreed - albeit on a slightly longer timescale.
He added: 'I’m hopeful that in, perhaps, two years time, life will be pretty much back to normal.'
COVID LANDMARKS TIMELINE
November 17, 2019 - Chinese government records suggest the first victim of the SARS disease, later named COVID-19, was found in China's Hubei district. A later disputed news report claims two workers at a virus lab in Wuhan had also become infected around this time.
November 27, 2019 - Sewage samples in Brazil are re-tested later and reveal signs of the disease.
December 1, 2019 - Patient Zero was identified, although he had no connection with the Huanan seafood market
December 8, 2019 - 41 people are confirmed infected in Wuhan.
December 31, 2019 - Wuhan health officials confirm a 'pneumonia' outbreak in the city and tell locals to wear masks and avoid public areas.
January 3, 2020 - The US National Security Council is warned 'this is a very big deal' and the BBC runs its first story about the new flu.
January 9, 2020 - First death from the virus, a 61 year old Wuhan man who was a regular at the seafood market.
January 21, 2020 - The US records its first case.
January 22, 2020 - Wuhan is sealed off by authorities.
January 25, 2020 - Australia recorded its first four cases, one in Victoria and three in NSW.
February 28, 2020 - The US records it first Covid death.
March 1, 2020 - Australia has its first Covid death, a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined in Japan.
March 10, 2020 - Australia breaks through 100 cases.
March 12, 2020 - Government announces first stimulus package. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson test positive in Queensland.
March 18, 2020 - Australia's Governor General declares a Human Bio-security Emergency. UK records its 100th death.
March 19, 2020 - The Ruby Princess docks in Sydney and 900 infected passengers are allowed to disembark with 28 later dying. Qantas axes 60 per cent of local flights and puts two-thirds of staff on leave.
March 21, 2020 - Australia surpasses 1000 cases.
March 22, 2020 - Second government stimulus package announced.
March 25, 2020 - Australians must now get exemptions to leave the country.
March 26, 2020 - Australia deaths rise to 13. US surges past 1000, with 1642.
March 27, 2020 - US cases break through 100,000 mark. UK deaths hit 1161.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured)
March 30, 2020 - A third government financial stimulus package is announced including JobKeeper, aimed at keeping business afloat and workers in their job during the pandemic.
April 11, 2020 - The UK has more than 11,000 deaths.
April 18, 2020 - UK cases top 100,00
April 26, 2020 - US cases top 1million.
May 15, 2020 - NSW begins to relax Covid restrictions.
May 18, 2020 - Australia records its 100th Covid death after the 19th death at Newmarch House aged care centre.
May 22, 2020 - US has more than 100,000 Covid deaths.
June 20, 2020 - Victoria goes back into Covid lockdown.
June 27, 2020 - Western Australia relaxes Covid restrictions
June 30, 2020 - Victoria imposes even stricter lockdown restrictions on four postcode areas.
July 6, 2020 - The NSW-Victoria border is closed off.
July 14, 2020 - Australia tops 10,000 cases.
July 20, 2020 - Daily overseas arrivals at Sydney Airport are reduced further from 450 to 350.
August 1, 2020 - Australia hits 201 deaths.
August 8, 2020 - Australia hits 20,000 cases.
August 23, 2020 - Australia has 502 deaths in total.
September 2, 2020 - Australian economy goes into recession for the first time in almost 30 years.
September 13, 2020 - Melbourne begins to loosen Covid restrictions.
October 18, 2020 - The Trans-Tasman bubble opens between Australia and New Zealand.
October 26, 2020 - Victoria relaxes lockdown restrictions.
October 31, 2020 - UK cases surpass 1million.
November 6, 2020 - US cases top 10million.
November 14, 2020 - Western Australia eases its domestic border control.
December 2, 2020 - Australia leaves recession with 3.3 per cent growth.
December 18, 2020 - Sydney's Northern Beaches is put into lockdown. Restrictions brought back in for gatherings, and states block NSW travellers.
January 7, 2021 - PM Scott Morrison brings forward vaccination program to February, with at risk workers at the head of the queue.
January 8, 2021 - International arrivals to Australia are reduced again to just 1500 a week in NSW and 500-1200 elsewhere. Brisbane goes into lockdown.
January 16, 2021 - The federal government announces plans to fly home the 37,000 Aussies stranded overseas.
January 25, 2021 - TransTasman bubble suspended. UK hits 100,000 deaths.
January 31, 2021 - Western Australia is put in lockdown for five days.
February 1, 2021 - Queensland re-opens its borders to all states except WA.
February 10, 2021 - US hits 500,000 deaths.
February 12, 2021 - Melbourne goes back into lockdown for five days after another outbreak.
February 15, 2021 - the first Pfizer vaccine doses arrive in Australia.
February 21, 2021 - The Australian vaccination program begins to rollout
February 24, 2021 - Restrictions eased again in NSW.
March 29, 2021 - Brisbane goes into three day lockdown.
April 19, 2021 - The Trans-Tasman bubble re-opens.
April 23, 2021 - Perth goes into a three day lockdown.
April 27, 2021 - All travel is banned into Australia from India, including returning Aussies, after the Delta outbreak sweeps through the nation
May 27, 2021 - Melbourne goes into its fourth lockdown.
June 10, 2021 - Melbourne lockdown ends.
June 23, 2021 - Sydney goes into lockdown as Delta spreads
June 27, 2021 - Darwin goes into lockdown
June 28, 2021 - Perth goes into lockdown.
June 29, 2021 - Brisbane and other parts of QLD go into lockdown.
July 8, 2021 - UK cases hit 5million.
July 10, 2021 - Australian adult double-jabbed vaccination rate hits 10 per cent.
July 15, 2021 - Victoria goes into lockdown.
July 17, 2021 - Even tighter restrictions are enforced in Western Sydney suburbs to try to stem the spread of the disease. ADF personnel are deployed to enforce them alongside police.
July 20, 2021 - South Australia is put into lockdown.
July 24, 2021 - Growing anti-vax and anti-lockdown protests see demonstrations on the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
August 5, 2021 - Victoria goes back into lockdown, its sixth.
August 17, 2021 - Australia hits 40,000 cases.
August 24, 2021 - Protests spread to Adelaide, Darwin and Perth too.
August 30, 2021 - Australia records its 1000th Covid fatality.
September 1, 2021 - Australia Post halts parcel collections for four days to work through backlog.
September 20, 2021 - A protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union HQ in Melbourne turns violent
September 21, 2021 - A second Melbourne protest becomes a running street battle between protestors and police and media.
September 28, 2021 - Australia smashes through 100,000 cases.
September 29, 2021 - Australia hits 50 per cent adult population double-jabbed.
Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured)
October 1, 2021 - NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resigns after ICAC announced a probe into her relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.
October 14, 2021 - NSW hits 90 per cent adult single jabbed. US deaths top 750,000.
October 15, 2021 - Covid restrictions dramatically relaxed in NSW by new Premier Dominic Perrottet. Australian deaths hit 1,500. Hobart goes into three day lockdown.
October 23, 2021 - Australia reaches 70 per cent of adults fully vaccinated.
November 11, 2021 - Australia reaches 80 per cent of adults fully vaccinated.
November 23, 2021 - Australia hits 200,000 cases.
November 25, 2021 - UK cases smash 10million mark.
November 28, 2021 - The first two cases of Omicron are detected in Australia.
November 30, 2021 - Australian Covid fatalities tick over 2000.
December 3, 2021 - US cases top 50 million.
December 5, 2021 - Pfizer vaccine approved for children aged 5-11
December 15, 2021 - Almost all Covid restrictions are lifted in NSW
December 24, 2021 - Australia reaches 90 per cent of adults fully vaccinated. Masks made mandatory indoors again in NSW.
January 8, 2022 - UK death toll reaches 150,000,
January 10, 2022 - Australia has 1million cases.
January 20, 2022 - Australia has doubled to 2million cases in 10 days.
January 25, 2022 - Australia 's total Covid caseload stands at 2,287,634. Australia's total deaths stand at 3,230. Double-jabbed rate is 92.04 per cent, with more than 6.7million having had their booster shot.
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10437123/Two-years-coronavirus-Australia.html5763