Montrealers in lockdown as Australia battles outbreak of highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant
MONTREAL -- Sonia Giulione moved to Sydney, Aus. in 2019 and has built a life she loves, complete with beaches and sun; but now, two years after her initial departure, she says she's desperate to come back to Montreal.
"I just want to see my mum, you know? Like, I want to go home for a week and be able to come back to Australia," she said. "I don't want to get stuck in Canada because my whole life is here now, but I just want Australia to be a little bit more lenient with the borders."
The Saint-Hubert native moved 'down under' to complete her Master's degree in occupational therapy at the University of Sydney.
"I've missed a lot. Both my sisters got engaged. Both my sisters bought a house. One of my sisters got a dog and then one of my sisters just had a baby last month, so I've missed quite a bit, unfortunately," Giulione told CTV News. "That comes with moving overseas, but I feel like normally I would have seen them a few times if it weren't for COVID-19."
The 28-year-old was originally planning a trip back to Montreal in May 2020 for one of her sister's weddings.
"It's been postponed three times now, so now it's May 2022," she said. "Australia is planning on opening its international borders in May 2022, so I'm hoping I can make it."
Over the last few months, Australia seemed to be doing well during the pandemic, with a low number of infections allowing people to go about their lives as usual.
"We were just kind of roaming free. We had no cases for the longest time. So, it was just regular life here," Giulione recalls. "They did start to take the distancing signs down off the trains and the supermarkets and things like that."
However, an outbreak of the Delta variant recently hit Sydney, one of the country's biggest cities, and residents are now under complete lockdown.
That means 5 million people living in the Greater Sydney area are only allowed to leave their homes if they have "a reasonable excuse."
"I’m anticipating the numbers in New South Wales will be greater than 100," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a news briefing over the weekend. "I will be shocked if it is less."
The state of New South Wales now has 785 locally transmitted instances of the infection, with numbers expected to continue to rise in the coming days and weeks.
The country has just reported its first coronavirus-related death of 2021, as well as its highest number of new infections since last September.
"My sisters make fun of me because they're like, 'we were in lockdown for so long, we don't feel bad for you,'" Giulione said. "But they were in lockdown all together. I feel like they still got to see each other. Whereas I'm by myself."
Giulione theorizes one reason why the outbreak has spread so quickly in the city: less than 10 per cent of the Australian population is fully vaccinated, compared to Canada's 43.4 per cent.
"I'm getting vaccinated at the end of the month, but we don't have enough vaccines for everybody and I also think Australians aren't really feeling the need to get vaccinated," Giulione said. "Everybody was like, 'we're fine.' They were all saying that they're going to wait. I'm hoping that this is actually going to make people go get vaccinated."
Officials recently announced the lockdown in the Greater Sydney area would be extended at least until the end of July.
Giulione admits there's nothing she can do but stay patient until the borders reopen.
"I just want to go home for a little visit and I'm hoping that'll happen sooner rather than later," she said. "I got here when I was 25 years old and I'm 28, which is weird. That just sounds crazy to me."
She says she just hopes she doesn't miss any more big milestones.