As the winter sun shines warm on my cheek, relaxing tension and reminding me why I live in Melbourne, I reflect on the year so far. 2020 will be remembered as a tough one. While the whole world is suffering from the health and financial disasters brought on by the pandemic, Australian communities have had the extremes of weather and climate change to overcome as well as this pestilential coronavirus. We live in weird times and it’s getting weirder.
On Sunday 2 August, a curfew was placed on metropolitan Melbourne followed by Stage 4 restrictions a few days later. Between 8pm and 5am the people of Melbourne cannot be outside except for the specified list of reasons. The curfew, in my opinion, is a reasonable response to a fearsome public health disaster. However, I was not prepared for my own emotional reaction to the notion of living under a curfew – disbelief, panic, fear. Life has become art and I have stepped into a sci-fi novel. I actually need to carry a permit to leave my house to travel to work.
Melburnians, on the whole, have had to grow used to a smaller range of leisure activities, socialising with fewer friends at once. At the same time, we are home-schooling the kids, mastering the art of video-conferencing, and endlessly walking the dog to and from the park.
I’m pleased it happened during winter when, at least some of the time, we can convince ourselves that staying in is a well earned luxury, or a reward. It’s a chance to finish that book you got for Christmas the year before last, or watch every episode of The Big Bang Theory, or maybe learn to cook like a master chef.
But it’s all smoke and mirrors. The reality is we’re putting on a brave face over a grief and anger that runs deep. Peoples’ lives are falling apart. Businesses have closed their doors that will never open again, rents and mortgages go unpaid while parents worry about how they will feed the kids? Interpersonal relationships are tested and sometimes break.
We try to manufacture a feeling of community – after all ‘we’re all in this together’ – but who doesn’t know that the worst is yet to come. After the war will come the famine. Recovery for Victoria is so far in the distant future it’s out of sight.
To their credit, all three levels of government were swift to announce support packages. It has helped over the last six months and the areas of the country that have come through will start to rebound because of it. I only hope this spike in infections in Victoria doesn’t jump containment lines, multiplying the harm and delay the recovery even further.
One thing is for sure – life will never be the same again in a post COVID-19 world.