06 October 2020

Being cautiously optimistic during the lockdown in Melbourne

Our analyst on the ground in Melbourne describes her experience living through COVID-19 related restrictions in the city.

On 28 September, COVID-19 related lockdown restrictions in Australia’s Greater Melbourne area, Victoria state, were slightly eased to allow up to five members collectively from two households to meet in an open public space within a five-kilometre radius (three miles) of their homes. More than one person per household were now allowed to go out to buy essential items while previously only one person per household was permitted to go. The stay-at-home order, effective from 2 August, mostly remained intact: people were not allowed to travel out of their homes except for essential shopping, care-giving, up to two hours of exercise (all within a five-kilometre radius) and essential work while all non-essential businesses, including the gym that I used to frequent in my neighbourhood, were closed.

When my partner and I heard about the eased measures, we were happy; because this meant not having to rely on one person in your household to remember to purchase every item on that grocery list, including your favourite brand of ice cream that helps you cope with the lockdown woes. It also meant that I will finally be able to meet friends within my locality at a common park after having gone nearly two months without seeing them. The daily night-curfew in Melbourne ended on 27 September, which means that I can resume my late-evening walks and jog in the park. Until restrictions ease further, the only other sources of entertainment for me remain my online gym classes, board games and lots of Netflix and Binge network shows.

The slightly eased measures in Melbourne came due to significant progress made in containing the second outbreak. Infection levels fell to around five new COVID-19 cases per day on 28 September from roughly 200 daily new cases in late August. Looking at this trend as an analyst, I am cautiously optimistic that while restrictions will further ease in the coming weeks, Melbourne residents are unlikely to yet face the level of freedom seen in other states across Australia which do not have gathering limits or internal movement restrictions. It is hardly surprising that Victoria officials are taking a conservative approach in gradually easing Melbourne’s restrictions as the second outbreak, fuelled by community transmission in the city, occurred right after restrictions on public gatherings and movements were eased too quickly in June.

Melbourne will move from Stage 2 to Stage 3, similar to the level present in regional Victoria, when the number of new daily cases in the state are less than five for 14 days on an average. Under Stage 3, Melbourne residents will not need a reason to leave their homes or restrict their movements to a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius, which means that outdoor enthusiasts can resume their long-distance hiking and biking activities. Some restaurants and cafes with outdoor dining and a few shopping areas may reopen. Residents can expect capacities limited to 10 people indoors, including residences, and outdoors, while social distancing measures and face mask guidelines will be strictly enforced.

The inter-state travel bans for Victoria residents looking to travel to New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory are unlikely to ease, possible until the state records no new cases for 14 consecutive days. Until then, areas within regional Victoria will be my vacation hotspots during spring-time.