AN email headed ’one potato, two potato...’ in which a former colleague described how he’d ’just bought the last two potatoes in Sydney’ and wondering whether there was panic-buying in Monmouth, was a stark reminder we’re all in this together.

I’ve since been in touch with friends and family in Pennsylvania, Berlin, Milan and Mexico all facing day-to-day life with nowhere to go.

In New South Wales the situation is changing as rapidly as in the UK. Daily updates starting a week ago underline the similarities - and differences.

Bernard Bradney, a direct descendant of Sir Joseph Bradney who wrote the 12-volume reference book ’History of Monmouthshire’, trained as a reporter locally before heading to Australia via the BBC and ITN. He recently retired and lives in an apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour.

On March 19 he wrote: "They’ve instigated an ’oldies hour’ at our local supermarket. Between 7am and 8am, on production of a seniors’ card, old so-and-sos like me have exclusive access to the aisles. Will need to venture out today in search of toilet/kitchen roll and food.

"Hope I’m not bashed to death by an angry granny - only half in jest as there have already been serious fights in the aisles, with one man arrested after ramming his trolley into two elderly ladies!

"Two large cruise ships are anchored off my local point in Sydney Harbour, going nowhere fast. They’ve offloaded their passengers who are either going into isolation, or flying home.

"The temperature’s in the mid-thirties and Sydney Harbour looks as marvellous as ever. Then, you notice pretty well all the yachts are at their moorings because nobody’s sailing.

"The AFL (Aussie Rules football), has just shut down its season for two months. Rugby league and soccer continue for now. How you maintain ’social distance’ in a game like rugby league beats me.

"Horse racing is continuing behind closed doors too. It will take more than plague to stop gambling-obsessed Aussies from having a punt. Crown Casino in Melbourne has ruled that those using the ’pokies’ (local equivalent of FOBTs), must keep a distance of at least one unoccupied gambling machine between them.

"The sensible option of staying at home, saving their money and their health, doesn’t seem to be on the table.

"Schools are remaining open, for now at least.

"Australia has cut itself off from the world - and Tasmania has cut itself off from the rest of Australia.

"Ironic really. So many convicts dreaded being sent to Van Diemen’s Land, as it was then, back in the 19th century. Now, they couldn’t get in if they wanted to!

"It’s all quite surreal. Think the old John Lennon song - Strange Days - could become the 2020 anthem. ’Nobody told me there’d be days like these’.

"Sydney is eerily quiet. Little traffic on the roads. My local pub has taken out half the tables to keep people apart. But nobody’s going to pubs anyway. Nobody’s going anywhere.

Update March 22: "They’ve been forced to close Bondi Beach after vast crowds headed there this weekend and it looks like other beaches will follow suit unless people do the right thing.

"The Northern Territory is now following Tasmania in shutting itself off from the rest of Australia. Any new arrivals except essential workers must self-isolate for 14 days.

"The NT has a majority aboriginal population. Their health outcomes are poor at the best of times. If the virus gets into remote communities, it could be devastating.

"In an attempt to limit my social contact, have taken out a digital subscription for the main daily here, the Sydney Morning Herald and am printing out the cryptic crossword.

"The local radio has nothing but virus news. I’m tending to tune to the classical music station for relief.

Update March 23: "Rugby league and soccer (as they call it here) have called off their seasons. All barbers and hairdressers have shut so I’m going to be a long-haired hippy at last.

"Horse racing continues because the NSW government has classified it as ’an essential industry’.

"Queensland is closing its borders, except for food supplies, from midnight Wednesday (March 25) in line with Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the NT.

"Experts are predicting a national unemployment rate of 20 per cent.

"It occurs to me that if the pandemic continues for another six months - as seems quite likely - we’ll be into the next bushfire season. Oh joy!"