Still optimistic: Former Queenstowner Todd Barclay with an empty Bondi beach behind him

Todd Barclay’s a former Queenstown resident and ex-Clutha Southland MP, who’s now living in Sydney working in business development, strategy and stakeholder engagement

I remember reading articles of how the Covid-19 situation was unfolding in China, Italy and the UK while still going about my normal life thinking ‘we’re a long way off being affected that badly here’.

But the situation escalated rapidly, flight restrictions came into effect overnight and many businesses moved to a ‘work from home’ model.

What constituted ‘self-isolation’ was a bit of a grey area in the beginning.

Unlike in New Zealand, where Jacinda Ardern quickly moved to mandatory self-isolation for all in-bound international travellers, the Australians weren’t so quick to follow suit, allowing 2700 passengers to disembark the Ruby Princess cruise ship and explore Sydney.

It’s since been reported authorities knew about the widespread respiratory sickness on board and let passengers disembark anyway.

It’s fair to say, throughout this ordeal to date, Australia’s been a decent 24 to 48 hours behind New Zealand in its response.

Since March 30, most states have brought in sweeping new laws restricting social gatherings and under what circumstances someone is permitted to leave their home.

All beaches are now officially closed, guarded by tall fencing, along with police and council officials on hand, and the occasional police helicopter to deter flouters.

This came in after literally hundreds of people decided to make the most of day one of “working from home”, flocking to Bondi Beach with their boogie board and an esky full of beers.

These restrictions are on top of how many loo rolls and items of tinned food can be purchased in one go.

Despite the government’s best efforts to assure everyone Australia would not run out of loo roll, tinned food, frozen vegetables or pasta, it didn’t stop the rush.  Only now are shops beginning to catch up on out-of-stock items.

While political leaders have said these rules are simple, the rules seem to be changing daily and the penalties for breaching them differ between states.

Eating a kebab on a bench, washing car windscreens at an intersection and sitting in a stationary car are some of the reasons more than 50 people have been fined by police in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria for violating the new coronavirus laws.

Breaching the orders is punishable in NSW by fines for individuals of up to AUD$11,000 (NZD$11,399), or six months in prison, or both, and in Victoria by fines of up to AUD$19,800 (NZD$20,519) through courts and up to AUD$1652 (NZD$1712) on the spot.

Because I know you’re all wondering, the guy eating his kebab was only fined AUD$1000 (NZD$1036).

But what happens if you and your partner don’t live together? Are you allowed to visit each other?

Depends where you live.

In NSW and Victoria, there is an exemption to the ‘no social visits’ rule for partners.

In Queensland and Australian Capital Territory (ACT), households are allowed to have two additional guests at a time, but in ACT there must be at least 4 square metres per person indoors.

If you’re in Tasmania, romantic partners and family members can still visit one another, however, social distancing must be observed and you’re not allowed to stay overnight unless you’ve elected their home to be your primary residence in advance.

In Western Australia, households are allowed to have one guest at a time.  So, if you and your flatmates all have partners living elsewhere, it’s first in, first served.

Things are much more liberal in South Australia and Northern Territory.  There are currently no fines for leaving the house for non-essential reasons and you can host gatherings at your home, or outdoors, of up to 10 people, albeit unnecessary socialisation’s discouraged.

For those thinking now’s the perfect time to reconnect with nature, sorry, but you can’t head down to Jervis Bay, in NSW, for a few days or travel interstate.

No travel means no travel.

And, if you’re caught driving out of town to go mountain biking for the day, you’ll also be sent back to where you came from … hat tip, David Clark.

All in all, the vibe of people in my “bubble’’ is as upbeat and positive as it can be.

We’re all supporting each other but, as the weeks and months pass by, the country’s optimistic outlook is hanging in the balance, and, before too long, signs of a well-conceived exit strategy from lockdown will become increasingly important.