Bubble burst: singles visit rule not quite right, say campaigners

It's such a simple pleasure, but Peta Koopmans is looking forward to sitting down over a meal and having a good chat, in person, with a friend.

The single mother, 46, of Kilsyth, said she was excited at the state government announcement allowing singles and single parents to visit a chosen person, or be visited at home, during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Single mother Peta Koopmans is happy she can invite a friend around. Credit:Eddie Jim

Ms Koopmans, who lives with her teenage son, is keen to catch up with a friend, 40, who lives alone in Brunswick, and whom she hasn’t seen in three months.

"Being able to cook a meal will be good for my mental health but also good for his mental health," she said.

"And it’s just having a connection, just an adult to talk to and laugh with and listen to some tunes. It makes us feel a bit more human, I suppose."

Bayside single Gen Ford, whose change.org petition calling for singles to be allowed to have a visitor attracted over 26,000 signatures, said she was initially ecstatic at the bubble announcement made by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday.

But the feeling faded after she realised singles aren’t being treated the same as "intimate partners".

Dr Ford said that when singles visited their chosen "bubble buddy" in a share house, the buddy’s housemates or spouse would not be allowed to be present.

Intimate partners, however, "can visit each other, whenever they like, even if they both have housemates. There’s no expectation that the housemates make themselves scarce."

Tonya Scibilia called for “single bubble” rules during COVID-19 lockdown to be on par with intimate partner rules. Credit:Justin McManus

"And we [singles] have to wear a mask the entire time, which is also not the case for intimate partners. I would have thought sitting on my couch, platonically, with someone was less risky than sharing my bed."

Fellow campaigner Tonya Scibilia of Brunswick, who was similarly dismayed, said singles' visits would not carry more risk than those by intimate partners. "In fact it could be less of a risk because one single person in the bubble lives alone, whereas intimate partners might both be in share houses."

Referring to the singles and single parent bubble in general, Ros Knight, president of the Australian Psychological Society, termed it "a wonderful initiative".

"We do very well with social media these days and phone calls, and we try and stay connected, but being physically in the presence of another person, there’s nothing like it, is there?" Ms Knight said.

She said you could decline someone’s request to be their buddy by "explaining it’s not them, that it’s the situation", for example, that you need to see your grandmother.

If you’re rejected, she said, "perhaps hook up with a neighbour, or somebody else you know through some other activity, even a work colleague".

Relationships Australia national executive officer Nick Tebbey advised making a buddy request more as a conversation than an ultimatum, "to see where people are at".

Ms Koopmans recently had a bicycle accident, and also lost her job.

Since June she has seen her daughter, 24, once, and a friend twice – all of those occasions on walks. "It’s not the same as sitting down and having a meal, and having a glass of wine and having a decent conversation." she said.

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