There, I said it. 2020 has been such a staggeringly difficult year for so many people. As we all struggle with the daily complexities of living in the post-COVID world, I am struck almost daily with the absurdities of response to the virus on both a state and local level. At least in Georgia, we are not subject to the draconian repeated shutdowns, like those forced upon Californians who barely had a chance to open back up industry before the governor swiftly locked down the state again, citing “high infection numbers.”
While I am not oblivious to the dangers, I am as a person, tired of the constant back and forth of seeing my local government entities go from “we are doing well” to “lock it back down.”
The untold cost of this virus extends past purely being monetary losses. There are those suffering from various levels of isolation from immediate family members, and of course, the children that can’t maintain a solid learning environment as school districts bounce from in-person to virtual from week to week out of an apparent “abundance of caution.”
I get it, but the frustration continues for those families that work outside the home, which complicates their lives substantially.
As our aerial firefighting focus moves from North America to Australia as we head into winter and Australia moves into their scorching summer months, those who fight aerial firefighting’s international effort are also about to be severely inconvenienced by COVID protocols down under.
Despite having a meager amount of COVID cases, Australia has, for over six months now, been requiring new entrants to the country to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel at the entrants’ expense, to the tune of $3000 for the two weeks.
Pilots arriving from North America can look forward to two weeks locked in a room with no windows that open and three meals of questionable quality hand-delivered each day. Meanwhile, in an article I read today, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff are allowed to return from anywhere in the world and quarantine in their own homes with no such restrictions.
The one size fits all Australian government approach in combating the virus appears to lack consistency in cases such as the DFAT employees and even a famous recording artist who was recently allowed to return to Australia on a private jet self-quarantine at their country estate by the government.
My concern for the aerial firefighting world and the Australian people is that another massive fire outbreak occurs during the pilots’ 2-week quarantine period. Meanwhile, dozens of aircraft and pilots are not allowed to fly their aircraft during their quarantine time, leading to massive losses of life and property given the right weather circumstances.
I don’t wish that upon anyone by any means, but I think there is also a more logical approach that could be taken when it comes to essential workers entering a country.
I recently traveled to Kodiak, Alaska, for a wedding. Due to Alaska’s cases being almost nothing, they required people flying into Alaska to arrive with a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure, which I and everyone else on board did before traveling there. Simple, effective and the state of Alaska still maintains its virtually zero case result.
Alaska is much like Australia in its remoteness and lack of easy access, so why can’t Australia, even for the sake of the small numbers of aerial firefighting pilots and crew that will be arriving over the next month, take a leaf out of Alaska’s book.