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Letter from... Sydney


We will be providing regular reports regarding coronavirus from our SEC Newgate colleagues around the world. Today we have the view from Sydney, Australia by Jodie Brough, partner and office head at SEC Newgate Australia.

It's the most perfect weather of the year right now in southern Australia, with cool nights and crystalline clear days. But few Australians are thinking about that as coronavirus dominates all discussion.

In the space of a couple of weeks, people have gone from being excited about the start of the football season to shuttered shops and empty streets.

Sydney’s famous Royal Easter Show has been called off, as have all large gatherings. The cruise ships that usually queue up in Sydney Harbour at this time of year have been banned. Aussies overseas have been told to fly home. The media is absolute overdrive with blanket coverage and rampant dispute about whether Australia is doing too little or too much.

A Melbourne colleague told me there was scant evidence of anxiety at sunny St Kilda Beach on the weekend, the epicentre of the city’s youth culture. Plenty of Australians do, however, seem to have got the memo. Social distancing is the new black. Due to doomsday prepper-style panic buying, hand sanitiser cannot be had for love nor money – my local convenience store had a secretive stash “for locals only” and I was furtively provided with a tiny bottle.

Many of our people are working remotely, coming together to swap ideas and monitor unfolding events on our daily all-staff video call (which with its multiple screens has started to resemble The Brady Bunch opening credits).

There is no doubt Australian corporates are frantically trying to do the right thing by staff, customers and stakeholders. We have a number of staff in-house or otherwise supporting clients’ exhausted teams to manage coronavirus-related comms.

Australia has been very lucky so far in terms of actual impact – a handful of cases compared with some countries and very few deaths – but the nation is apprehensive. Just today 113 new cases, which is a big uptick.

Will the nation be shut down like some countries? The Prime Minister has firmly rejected that today, warning Australians that we need to be ready to change our usual freewheeling lifestyle for at least six months.

So we continue to closely watch the rest of the world’s response as a yardstick for how to tackle COVID-19, and wonder what just happened to planet Earth?? Bushfires. Volcanoes. And now this.