Australian expat Elizabeth Shaw at Citi Field. She has lived in New York since 2018.
Australian expat Elizabeth Shaw at Citi Field. She has lived in New York since 2018.

TAKE IT SERIOUSLY: Aussie expat’s New York experience

AN Ipswich expat is urging Australians to take every precaution to stop the spread of the coronavirus after seeing first hand the impact the virus has had in the United States.

Elizabeth Shaw, who was born and raised in Ipswich, moved to New York in 2018 with her boyfriend after two years in Seattle.

She said COVID-19 started to get media attention at the end of January but it wasn't initially taken very seriously.

"It wasn't until last week that everything happened at once," she said.

"The Governor of New York declared it a state of emergency.

"All major sports were shut down, Broadway shows were shut down and, since then, things have progressively become more restricted.

"One of the first cases in New York was in a city upstate, and they imposed a one mile closed-off quarantine.

"The National Guard had to deliver food to the quarantined residents. We went from joking around about it to full blown emergency extremely quickly."

Ms Shaw, 27, works as a paralegal in Manhattan and said the situation was "pretty intense".

Restaurants and cafes are limited to take out and delivery and movie theatres, nightclubs, bars and gyms have been shut down.

Near-empty shelves in a Trader Joe’s supermarket.
Near-empty shelves in a Trader Joe’s supermarket.

The city that never sleeps is quieter than its ever been.

"A lot of the city is shut down," Ms Shaw said.

"New York is one of the most infected states in the US right now.

"We get alerts daily about new ordinances and orders coming into effect as to what is allowed to remain open.

"It is hard to know if we are going to have a total lockdown like Italy but it seems likely as new measures are imposed daily."

Just as many Australians have felt the urge to panic buy during the pandemic, it is a similar story in New York, according to Ms Shaw.

"I went to get groceries the other day and the line was around the block," she said.

"Most non-perishables were gone. I can't get hand sanitiser, toilet paper or disinfectant anywhere right now.

"Because the social safety nets in the US are much more threadbare than in Australia, people who have had their workplaces shut down are scared on how they are going to pay rent and how long they might be without an income.


Signs inside a CVS Pharmacy.
Signs inside a CVS Pharmacy.

"The stock market is obviously plummeting. No one really knows how to react."

The former West Moreton Anglican College student urged Australians back home to take the steps to try and contain the virus.

"I want to emphasise how quickly the virus spread and how fast things happened here and let that be a warning," she said.

"Please, if you can, just stay home.

"Stop the spread, flatten the curve.

"You're saving the lives of your elderly neighbours, your friends with compromised immune systems, and your loved ones by doing so.

"If it seems like an over-reaction, that is because it is working."

She still calls Ipswich "home" and her parents still live in Brassall.