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State of the Nation, one year of COVID

Tue, 30 Mar 2021

One year ago Australia locked down and shut its doors to the world. We review where we are now, and where we might be heading.
 

In March last year, as we entered our first lockdown, I wrote about “the challenging weeks and months ahead”. With hindsight, that seems to have been naively optimistic. Few of us would have imagined that, a year later, the world would still be in such a state of turmoil, albeit a very uneven one.

The View from Sydney

Here in Sydney, Australia, we are in an enviable position. Thanks to our geography, good management, and perhaps a little good luck, life is remarkably normal. We are effectively COVID-free, apart from returning travellers in quarantine hotels. Almost all restrictions have been relaxed. Theatres, sports stadiums, and music venues have returned to full capacity. Indeed, Hamilton (the musical) opened its Sydney season a few days ago, to great fanfare.

The one very big exception is travel. Domestic travel is open, but individual states are very quick to shut down borders at the merest whiff of a breakout, such as the one currently making news in Brisbane.

International travel is another matter altogether. Nobody can leave the country without a permit, and if you do it’s close to impossible, and extremely expensive, to get back. Those who make it in are subject to a strict 14-day hotel quarantine, at their own expense.

Most of us accept that closed borders are a fair price to pay for avoiding the worst of the pandemic, but for a nation of travellers, and to a large extent a nation of immigrants with close relatives overseas, it’s a big adjustment.

For those whose livelihoods depend on international travellers, it has been devastating. Doubly so when you consider that the past year has been bookended by the worst bush fire season in recorded history and the worst floods in decades.

Life at Orchid

As our Orchid Goes Remote article from last April described, we made the transition to fully remote working quickly, and relatively painlessly.

A year on, we are still mostly working from home, and are certainly much more familiar with tools like Microsoft Teams. In recent months some of us have started returning to the office for face-to-face collaboration, or just for a little company. The consensus is that, while it would be quite possible for us to morph into an entirely virtual company, we’d prefer to have a 'bricks and mortar' base.

We’ve been impressed by the resilience of our business partners, and buoyed by their ongoing support of our products.

We’ve noted the particularly strong sales of products like EFT Processing and Document Management Link, which have become even more relevant as businesses adjust to the world of remote working.

Looking Forward

After getting it so wrong a year ago I’m reluctant to make predictions. Good news stories about the accelerating rollout of vaccines are quickly counterbalanced by the emergence of worrying new strains of the virus.

We are resigned to the reality that, for Australians at least, international business travel is still a long way off. The jet-setting days of old may never fully return.

In the meantime, we are embracing the emerging new normal by keeping engaged with our partners, vendors, and customers in new ways.

We are participating in more and more virtual events and becoming familiar with different virtual conferencing tools. We continue to host our monthly Webinar Wednesday events. We plan to further streamline how we provide online support to our partners.

Who knows what our State of the Nation review in March 2022 might look like? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get together and share our findings face to face?

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