Sydney elites in coronavirus isolation lash out at “dobbers”
You really get to know who your friends are in this coronavirus pandemic.
At a time of enforced social isolation and suspicion that every human being you encounter is infected, relationships are under enormous strain. Neighbours are informing on each other to the police for suspected Woolworths shopping or prohibited exercising, with the Crime Stoppers line fielding hundreds of calls a day.
Bonds of trust have been particularly strained in Australia's most affluent suburbs, where startling clusters of coronavirus infections have emerged. Half of the confirmed cases in NSW are in the eastern suburbs and north shore, and similar clusters appear in wealthy Melbourne suburbs.
Clusters have emerged from A-listers returning from ski trips to Aspen and Vail, Colorado, flying in the first-class cabins of Qantas and Virgin, and sailing on luxury cruise ships.
Four Sydney couples are believed to have tested positive to COVID-19 after returned to the eastern suburbs from a ski trip to a luxury resort in Vail Colorado.
Another nine Australians tested positive after returning to Melbourne from a ski trip in Aspen at the end of the American winter. None are believed to have become seriously ill, if they had symptoms at all.
In a list of COVID-19 affected flights into Sydney this month, on the NSW health department website, a preponderance of seats pinpointed were in first class and business class.
But since the jetsetters' return they have been accused by their own friends and neighbours of flouting the rules of self-isolation, of attending parties, going shopping or sending their children to school.
"They think the rules don't apply to them," said one furious parent at private Rose Bay school Kincoppal.
The rumours led one fed up Vaucluse mum this week to appeal for "kindness" in an Instagram post on Monday, alongside the stunning Sydney Harbour view from her $30 million waterfront house with hot pink manicured toenails in the foreground.
"Self-isolation hasn't been too bad so far, maybe get back to me in another couple of weeks!" wrote mother of three Vanessa Sanchez Levy, who celebrated her 41st birthday with husband Mark Levy and friends at a luxury resort in Vail earlier this month.
On their return, Mark tested positive, as did five other parents from four families with children at Kincoppal, and were ordered into two weeks' home quarantine.
Vanessa, this week, hit back at "dobbers" who have accused her and her husband of breaking self-isolation by sending their children to school after they returned from Vail.
"During trying times like these, you are certainly able to differentiate between those who've got your back and those who would kick a dead horse when it is down," she wrote on Instagram. "And for the love of god, can we please stop the "dobbing"? Let's not make fear turn us all into a bunch of snivel nosed little dibber-dobbers."
She continued, "Why don't we all try really hard to mind our own business and find happiness and joy within and for ourselves? … Keep your nose out of everyone else's business. Gossip, rumour and lies simply do not help anyone or anything. Imagine that kindness, generosity and respect are like COVID-19, let's spread those qualities instead of the virus."
She makes a good point. Now is the time for kindness above all and it seems the Levys have become scapegoats.
Fear makes everyone a suspect, and everyone a dobber. The news from the Melbourne jetsetters, dubbed the Aspen Nine was so grim it has added to the fear in Sydney.
There were reports in the Denver Post that nine Australians from a group of 15 Melbourne friends in the ski resort town of Aspen had tested positive to the virus. At least one other couple had refused to be tested.
Friends are furious at reports that one couple attended a Geelong Grammar cocktail party in Toorak at which five guests later tested positive and that someone else attended a 21st party at which six guests were infected. Two people in contact with the cluster were subsequently became seriously ill and had to be hospitalised on ventilators
The stories have added to the fear in Sydney. There are parents at Kincoppal still furious that the Levys sent their children briefly to school on their return from Vail.
But, while Mark Levy confirmed to the Sunday Telegraph that the children did go to school briefly, he said they travelled on a school bus "as per the guidelines" and did not have contact with their parents since they returned from Vail. "We self-isolated from them," he said.
Like his wife, he railed against "dobbers" and denied accusations that he had been "out and about", since testing positive.
"Someone has dobbed me in. I know some parents are freaking out about it. There are some fairly highly strung people in the community."
After an anonymous tip to the school principal, the Levys were told to send someone to pick up the children who have not been back to the school since.
It's a tricky situation for school principal Maureen Ryan who earned plaudits from parents early on for her swift response to the coronavirus threat.
She told families of students overseas that they would not be allowed back to the school until they had self-isolated for 14 days and rented premises in Bondi for those without families in Australia to quarantine with teacher supervision.
But the Vail ski-trippers took Ryan by surprise. After a flurry of phone calls from anxious parents she sent an email to the school community on March 22 confirming four families had been quarantined with COVID-19: "we have two families with both parents who have tested positive and two families with one parent who has tested positive. None of the children in the families has any symptoms of COVID-19 and no child has tested positive.
"Notwithstanding this, neither the children, nor the parents will be returning to the school until Term 2."
And that should be where it ends. It's a lesson for everyone to think of others and not just themselves. But we should not allow ourselves to become a nation of dobbers jumping at shadows either.
Originally published as Sydney elites in coronavirus isolation lash out at "dobbers"