State of disaster: Life under Victoria’s second lockdown

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Having to experience lockdown on two separate occasions shows us that social distancing will have to remain – long after restrictions are eased, Lynnette Too writes from Melbourne.

When we first sank into lockdown in Victoria, Australia, thoughts of having to experience a second lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic were far from our minds.

The hope was that we would be socially and physically isolated from others until Covid-19 was under control. 

Soon enough, the daily number of new cases dwindled, and the possibility of eased restrictions became a reality. Folks filled up their calendars again, pulled their jeans out from the back of closets and grew excited about everything being reopened. 

By late June, however, the number of new cases in the state of Victoria rose. I saw these initial numbers as a somewhat random spike and wasn’t overly concerned. (Every day, I receive a news update on the highlights of the daily Covid-19 press briefings. The most noteworthy number is the number of new cases. People often view this number as an indicator of whether the current restrictions are working.)

The authorities had ordered six weeks of stage three of lockdown restrictions for Victoria after 8 July, with face masks mandatory after 22 July. On 2 August, we plunged into stage four of lockdown for six weeks; this includes a curfew and a limited radius of 5km of travel from our home, with few exceptions.

The announcement of a second lockdown didn’t come as a great surprise. The number of new cases was higher than the time before the first lockdown. Victoria has experienced many new cases daily, unlike other Australian states, which have few or no new cases. Many states have closed their borders with Victoria to minimise the risk of the spike spreading across the nation.

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While the first lockdown only had stage three restrictions, the second lockdown has required the stricter restrictions of stage four. New cases in the triple digits continue, and we are presently living in a declared state of disaster.

During the first round of lockdown, my social media feeds reminded me that the entire world was in lockdown. This time around, the social media feeds show me Victorians are an exception in Australia. Instagram stories showcase people hanging out at bars or eating out at cafes and restaurants. Most importantly, friends and family are reuniting after being unable to be physically near each other. I see similar things on the accounts of my family and friends who are in Malaysia.  

We roll our eyes when we hear cliched phrases asking us to appreciate the little things in life or to never take anything for granted. The lockdown has given many people a lot of time alone with their thoughts and a renewed appreciation of those little things we overlook in our rushed days.

So, while we may perceive these little things as lame, they are things I miss. I miss going to the supermarket and going through all the aisles without feeling like I’m being rushed. I miss seeing the regulars at my café job and asking about their day. I miss going out to eat. But most of all, I miss having things to look forward to in my week. 

But all these things I miss make it even more important for me to try to find similar excitement during the lockdown bubble. I am fortunate to have housemates, so by default, I have a social group to hang out with. From movie nights with popcorn to jumping rope in the driveway to cooking together in the kitchen, these are the new plans that I look forward to. 

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This is the state of mind I had to adapt to in the first lockdown. Eased restrictions for around a month after that meant a return to ‘normal’ apart from always keeping a hand sanitiser handy, giving your contact information when you dine out and cultivating a heightened but mandatory awareness of personal space. It gives us a sense of how we can live out our pre-coronavirus normalcy in a reimagined state.

Having to experience lockdown on two separate occasions shows us that social distancing will have to remain long after restrictions are eased. We’ve all seen the animations that show us how fast the virus can spread. Stopping and restarting our lifestyles is not a sustainable approach, but it is a now a necessary one. While we may understandably vent about being stuck at home and running out of Netflix shows to watch, we need to remember we are ‘staying safe’ not only for ourselves but for every person we may come into contact with. 

Now more than ever, it is important to check in with your friends and family. I know, your conversation won’t involve the usual “What have you been up to lately?” and “Any plans coming up you’re excited about?”

You may feel robotic asking how people are holding up in lockdown and brainstorming ideas for getting through the next couple of weeks. Regardless, when we are stuck in an environment conducive to making many people feel alone, there is no downside to taking a couple of minutes a day to see how someone is feeling today. Watch a movie on Netflix Party together, cook dinner together or work out over a Zoom call together. 

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Let someone know they can reach out by reaching out to them first.  

Lynnette Too is a Malaysian studying psychology and international relations in Melbourne. She is passionate about music, food and travel

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