On the last day of February 2020, my now husband and I were lucky enough to celebrate our engagement party. I say ‘lucky enough’ because at the time, we had no idea what the next almost 18 months would hold as Australia and the rest of the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, undoubtedly impacting each and every one of our lives in one way or another.
Just weeks later, NSW would enter its first formal lockdown along with the rest of the states and territories, with the 100 of us in the room that day none the wiser about what was to come. The day was filled with love, beautiful speeches that brought us to tears, hugs and kisses, dancing, joy and even guests from overseas which is all but unthinkable now.
It was a special day, one untouched by rules, restrictions, limits and counts. The only limit we had to think about was the bar tab. And while all couples deserve to have this same joy when it comes to key milestones in their life, it’s just not the reality we find ourselves in today.
At the weekend, an engagement party went ahead in Melbourne with 69 people in attendance. An engagement party while three states are currently in lockdown, Victoria included, and the rules couldn’t possibly be clearer. It was an obvious flouting of the rules put in place to protect us and one that was laughed at by those in attendance.
A video obtained by The Age shows a small snippet into this party, which begins with a speech by a man in the room who can only be presumed to be the groom-to-be, making the same jokes we’ve heard time and time again at events like these.
Watching the video, I feel sick. Like it is some strange throwback to a time pre-COVID, only it’s not. Only it happened over the weekend while millions of us stayed at home and did the right thing. Hoping that our actions will lead us out of this situation sooner rather than later.
“Clearly this is legal,” the man laughs during his speech, “because this is a group therapy session, that’s why my father’s here.” He continues: “Thank you so much to everyone who came here tonight.”
Then on Sunday, it was confirmed that two individuals in Melbourne had COVID-19 and could have been in attendance at the large gathering. Speaking in a press conference on Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the event, explaining how angry he himself and his fellow Victorians were about it.
“It shouldn’t have happened. Some of the commentary in the video is just blatant. But what makes me really angry about it, is there are 69 people at that event. No matter what you’re told, or what you read, the facts are these: there has been transmission at that event. The only question is whether it will be a super spreader event,” he said.
“What makes me really angry about that event is that each of those 69 people will have to be interviewed, their close contacts will have to be interviewed, spoken to and tested. Their close contacts will have to be spoken to and tested.”
Andrews went on to explain that contract tracers who are already ‘working their guts out’ would have to spend thousands of hours dealing with hundreds of thousands of people connected to this engagement party. And while it is the work that they must do, it was entirely preventable.
“That’s what makes me angry and disappointed. That’s what events like that cost all of us. All of us, have to make the best choices, to limit the spread of this virus. Not making selfish choices that add to its spread,” he continued.
There’s nothing more that Australians want than for our lives to go back to ‘normal’. For us to see our friends and family, to spend time together, to celebrate our happy news in the presence of those dear to us. But that time is not now and to ignore those rules and to decide to do so anyway is at the expense of every one of us who is doing the right thing.
We’ve been in lockdown for more days than I can bring myself to count and we’re tired, we’re broken and we’re over it. And it’s not a situation that is going to come to an end as long as those few individuals in the community don’t think the rules apply to them.
If you’re considering breaking the rules like the group at this engagement party did on the weekend, you don’t need me to tell you not to. Those who are finding gaps and cracks in the rules already know they are doing the wrong thing.
What I would implore you to do if this video makes you angry, if it makes you shake as you text your family and friends about it like it does for me, asking how people could be so selfish, is to go and book your vaccination if you haven’t already.
The sooner we are all vaccinated, the sooner we will be able to return to some sort of normalcy and in the presence of people like these, we will be less likely to become sick with COVID, or far worse.