It's been 13 months since the last case of COVID-19 community transmission in Tasmania and freedom of movement in our towns and cities has, by and large, returned to normal.
Many have enjoyed travelling interstate, crowds have returned to sporting events, pubs and clubs are filled to the brim and, thankfully, intensive care units in our hospitals have been spared the pressure of a major COVID outbreak.
But as this weekend has progressed and more states and territories have been impacted by the latest outbreak stemming from NSW, it has shown how easily COVID could re-enter the state. At the time of printing, only Tasmania and South Australia were without a case of a potentially infectious person in public places.
Few could argue that principles of "social distancing" and continuous hand hygiene have been maintained with every month that's passed, even if more Tasmanians are checking in when they enter businesses. These acts, along with mask wearing when directed, are still the best defence against the rapid spread of COVID should it be brought in.
Outbreaks are likely to reappear sporadically until the vast majority of Australians are vaccinated. At this stage last year, a vaccine seemed a long way off. Few would have guessed that its development would progress so quickly, and while Australia's rollout has been plagued with delays and confusion, the expectation is that by year's end, everyone should have access to the vaccine.
In the meantime, we need to stay vigilant.
Australia was among the best-performing countries in terms of its low number of per capita COVID hospitalisations and deaths, due to the community's acceptance that we all needed to play a part to stop our most vulnerable from being infected.
But even just one piece of complete negligence by public authorities elsewhere - in which Ruby Princess cruise ship passengers were able to spread far and wide - caused the shutdown of a major Tasmanian hospital. With a more infectious variant, such levels of community spread could still occur.
We've learnt a lot in the past 18 months. Let's use that knowledge to get through 2021. A future with more freedoms awaits.
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