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From raging fires to a pandemic, P.E.I. natives say Australia has been overwhelmed

Island native Lindsay Clements, who lives in Australia, snapped a picture of an isle in her grocery store that normally carries toilet paper, rice and pasta. Clements said she has to drive out of Sydney to the suburbs just to find a box of Kleenex.
Island native Lindsay Clements, who lives in Australia, snapped a picture of an aisle in her grocery store that normally carries toilet paper, rice and pasta. Clements said she has to drive out of Sydney to the suburbs just to find a box of Kleenex. - Saltwire

 


A Charlottetown native living in Australia says it’s almost too much to handle.

Chelsea McBride, who lives in Sydney with her husband, Derek, and their two little girls, has spent the past few months dealing with extremely poor air quality from raging forest fires that left 28 people dead, destroyed about 3,000 homes and affected up to a billion animals.

Just a few weeks ago the fires were finally brought under control. However, now the country, like the rest of the world, is dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. As of two days ago, there were 2,044 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

“The fires were horrible, yet they brought the community together,’’ McBride said this week. “The onslaught of another severe situation is a lot to handle for many — individuals, health professionals and military reserves alike.’’

Lindsay Clements, a Beach Point, P.E.I. native who also lives in Sydney, said it’s hard to put it into words.

“Crazy doesn’t even begin to make sense of what’s happening,’’ Clements said. “On any given day, there are dozens upon dozens of folks lined up at COVID clinics for testing, and we now have people lined around city blocks trying to get access to social services.’’

P.E.I. natives Chelsea McBride and Lindsay Clements live in Australia.
P.E.I. natives Chelsea McBride and Lindsay Clements live in Australia.

Clements said doctors are angry, teachers are angry and the public is confused. Banks are doing their best to lighten the load and offer relief in line with government and reserve bank cuts.

She added that schools are still classified as open even though more than 50 per cent of parents have opted to remove children from daycare and school.

“I’m paying daycare every day to keep my child at home until the government declares schools closed. Others are paying school fees. Knowing so many small businesses are going under, childcare included, it’s a risk I don’t have care for her when the dust settles if I do withdraw her entirely. It’s all quite overwhelming.’’


Lindsay Clements, a native of Beach Point, P.E.I., who is living in Australia, said pensioners were lined up this week at the grocery store for their seniors-only hour in an attempt to purchase some essential items.
Lindsay Clements, a native of Beach Point, P.E.I., who is living in Australia, said pensioners were lined up this week at the grocery store for their seniors-only hour in an attempt to purchase some essential items.

Following are the restrictions in Australia:

  • The following closed March 23: pubs; registered and licensed clubs; gyms and indoor sporting venues; cinemas; entertainment venues and night clubs; restaurants and cafes restricted to takeaway or home delivery; religious gatherings and places of worship.
  • The following closed March 26: food courts (except for takeaway); auction houses; real estate auctions and open houses; personal services (beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons); spa and massage parlours; amusement parks; arcades and play centres; strip clubs; brothels and sex on premises venues; galleries; national institutions; historic sites and museums; health clubs; fitness centres; community facilities; gaming and gambling venues; indoor and outdoor markets (excluding food markets).
  • Weddings can be conducted with no more than five people, including the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses. A four-metre rule and social distancing must be observed.
  • Funerals must be limited to no more than 10 people. The four-metre rule and social distancing must be observed.
  • Essential gatherings restricted to 500 for outdoor gatherings and 100 for indoor gatherings.

The Guardian interviewed both women in January and February as the fires burned. Southern Kings Consolidated School in eastern P.E.I., a school Clements attended, raised money to help support the crisis with the fires.

Clements said she managed to ensure that money was donated to the local Australian school system “before all hell broke loose (with the pandemic)’’.

“I have a folder full of thank-you cards from the kids at a local school to send in a thank-you care package back to home (to P.E.I.).’’

P.E.I. native Chelsea McBride, who lives in Australia, sent this picture taken by a friend in her community of the meat isle this week in the grocery store McBride shops at in Sydney. McBride said it’s hard to find toilet paper, meat, pasta and rice.
P.E.I. native Chelsea McBride, who lives in Australia, sent this picture taken by a friend in her community of the meat isle this week in the grocery store McBride shops at in Sydney. McBride said it’s hard to find toilet paper, meat, pasta and rice.

McBride, who is a trained trauma nurse, said the health-care system will get through this in Australia but stressed a common message these days, that people need to do their part and stay away from others to flatten the curve.

“I am so disheartened to see those that don't get it (and) they won’t until it is too late. I lay awake at night worrying about what is coming and that there is a likely chance I will lose someone I love in the coming year.’’

McBride praised the P.E.I. and federal governments in Canada for acting clear and decisively.

Clements said she’s heard about panic buying in P.E.I. but said it pales in comparison with what is happening in Australia where the store shelves are often completely empty of everything.

“I am keeping (an eye on) both countries’ situations and P.E.I. is absolutely leading the way in their efforts of social distancing,’’ Clements said. “If I could be where you are (on P.E.I.) I’d be home in a heartbeat. Small and mighty will fare out the best and fastest.’’


Twitter.com/DveStewart

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