WHEN regional Victoria was ruthlessly plunged into a snap lockdown at 1pm last Saturday, the only surprise was the short notice – barely three hours!

As cases of COVID started appearing in Shepparton, and across the border in Broken Hill and Wilcannia during the preceding week, residents in Sunraysia knew that the tenuous ‘out-of-lockdown’ freedom we were enjoying in our region was temporary, and that it was likely to end soon.

For business owners, particularly those in hospitality, the ongoing lockdowns – now up to number seven – are draining finances, spirits and their sense of hope … the latter being long gone.

Somebody said to me two lockdowns ago, “Why don’t you get a photo of a smiling business owner rejoicing at being opened again?” I said: “Rejoicing about what?”

“They are battered and bruised, they have nothing to smile about – they simply live in fear of the next lockdown. Let’s spare a thought for their mental health.”

Already we are seeing businesses closing across the state and there are many in Mildura who will go to the wall soon if they haven’t already − this is simply unsustainable.

But it’s not just business – it’s impacting all of us. A sense of not being able to look forward to anything or being able to plan an event, a wedding, a birthday party, watch or participate in sport – you name it – the enthusiasm has slowly, but surely, been disappearing from people’s psyche.

Our young school aged children are also feeling it, and the issue of their mental health is now in the headlines. The number of calls to the kid’s Life Line numbers across Victoria has risen dramatically in recent months.

Imagine what it must be like for little kids who one day are at school with their friends, and the next day they’re back home remote learning.

Then they are back at school for a couple of weeks and then they are home again.

They must wonder what on earth is going on and the very little ones, as resilient as they may seem, are being impacted deeply. Many parents will attest to that.

And then there are the mums and dads whose lives get up-ended when the lockdowns hit, affecting their daily routines, with one or other of them having to stay home, unless they are an essential worker, to look after their children.

Yes, we may ‘all be in it together’, but we aren’t all being impacted in the same way. For many it is much worse and much more of a burden.

The only way out of this is vaccination. With selected pharmacies now able to administer the vaccine in Sunraysia, now is the time to go out and get your jab – it is literally our passport to a lockdown free world and the pathway to a COVID normal existence.