Covid Lockdown. Melbourne, March 2020

saladin

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Lockdown Life, 2020

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Fortunate, or otherwise? I pondered on this even as I put pen to paper – well, in truth, pixels to screen in this day and age - on this little diatribe. And I decided that, like almost everything in life, it depends to an extent on one’s perspective. Or at least, on ones starting point. Because things can change. Rapidly.

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With seemingly the entire planet brought to a sudden halt by the emergence of the Covid-19 microscopic organism, humanities clock has been reset. An organism that is defying its relatively nondescript name – I’m reminded more of a vacuum cleaner model than an oft fatal contagion – is wreaking havoc on a world that has lost its nonchalance in an instant.

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Forget the 1-hour clock adjustment of “daylight saving” as we term it here in Australia through the summer months. We’ve been rapidly plunged into a “Century Saving” adjustment as it were, a reversion to virus containment methods that we’d literally thought a distant fragment of life 100 years ago. The year 2020? Only in name. We harken back to 1920 for hints and methods.

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And so it has been that we have all watched on with horror the events in China, Italy, Spain. Virtually everywhere. Lines on maps provide no salvation. The only defence available to us – despite all the technological marvels of modern medicine – has been the ancient one of distance. All across the globe, we have closed our doors. Shut down lifetsyles. Friends and family at arms reach. Literally.

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In Melbourne, we’ve termed current measures as “Stage 3 Lockdown”. Most businesses are closed. The streets are largely empty. You can shop for food. Walk the dog around the block. There are inherent contradictions. Fishing was banned here yesterday, though could there be a more effective “social distancing” than sitting alone on the bank of a remote river or stream? Other states have not banned this.

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There is no consensus across the nation. Victoria also banned romantic visitations between couples who didn’t live together. For about two hours. It was immediately bestowed with “Bonking Ban” as a derisive title. And was overturned by dinner. This is policy on the run, and fair play to them. None have faced this for many decades. We now have no meetings in public of more than two people, and yet the construction industry continues. Hundreds of workers attend some sites, a symptom of apparent imbalance. Governments desperately perch on a fulcrum with viral eradication at one end. Economic destruction is the counterweight. They have many balls in the air, some inevitably get dropped.

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Which brings us neatly full circle to my opening question. As a tradesman, I have been permitted to work and have done so over the last two weeks. In many ways, this has been fortunate, with so many around me losing their employment. Including others in my household. Interestingly though, as the days progressed, I found it increasingly wearing. Like a spring being twisted each day, I could feel the tension rising. I became addicted to the terrible figures emerging from Italy and elsewhere. I couldn’t bring myself to not look, to not understand what was happening. We implemented strict hygiene processes on the worksite, and yet I could feel the mental fatigue building as I tried to keep track of everything I’d touched, to not wipe the sweat from a brow, to ponder how best to eat a lunch that may or may not pose a hazard. And then there’s the constant, distant nagging worry about the wife and kids. I really don’t want to bring this thing home with me. Just how much this sort of thing effects one wasn’t really driven home until I took the Sunday off. The relief at leaving the front door closed and not having to venture out into the world was like a physical entity. I can only imagine the stress levels for those on the front line, in the emergency departments, surgeries and Covid wards. I have several members of the broader family involved as doctors in the Covid fight, and I sent them spontaneous messages of support. This is but a trifle, perhaps, yet they’ll need every ounce of goodwill they can get.

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Strangely, I felt much better on the Monday. Productivity was far below what it would normally be, but that had ceased to matter much. I gave myself some slack. And as an amateur photographer, the situation does provide some unusual opportunities. I can wander through a shopping centre, usually teeming with people, and marvel at the emptiness of large structures. I decided to risk a visit on my way to work to a train station. Five weeks ago, there’d have been hundreds standing idly by, waiting to commute into the city. Here, there were barely half a dozen. A lady was lathering her arms in hand sanitiser like a sunbather at the beach. We nodded and smiled at each other. I asked her quietly – it seemed inappropriate to introduce any noise into a surreal scene – how weird this all was. She agreed, bizarre was the word that came to mind for her. It seemed apt. The train ghosted in, itself apparently wary and feeling the need for surreptitious stealth. Illuminated carriages, but almost vacant. The few passengers standing around boarded with downcast eyes, thoughts kept confined to themselves. Documentary curiosity aroused, I went a step further than I really should and instinctively jumped aboard the last carriage. A tiny smattering of commuters filled a few seats, no one spoke. Here was peak hour in name alone.

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I viewed every surface with suspicion, the usual grime of Melbourne trains bequeathed a more sinister character by my imagination. I alighted at the next station and waited for a return train.

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This one was even more desolate, just two desultory travellers in a carriage built for 100 or more. I made my way back to the work vehicle and disinfected my hands, face and camera’s. For the budding photographer in March, 2020 , an aerosol can of disinfectant has supplanted most other items in a camera bag. Unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

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It seems paradoxical but as the social restrictions have tightened, people seem to be seeking contact and conversation more often. Except in the early gloom of a train station, perhaps. An older couple, keeping their distance in the line at the checkout, struck up a conversation with me. They had lost their jobs the previous day. I commiserated, and hoped that this wouldn’t last too long. “And the queues, I suppose we will we have to get used to these queues?” opined the lady. I told her that a well-timed sneeze would probably accelerate her journey to the front of the line. This drew some amused laughter, and looks of askance, in equal measure. Such is the dark humour of the times.

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On another day, I settled in an open area in the sun, away from people making their way into the supermarket, to have lunch. A few pigeons joined me for company. Shortly after, so did Dee, a young woman likely in her mid- 20’s. She sat a short distance away, equipped with salad roll, and across a 5 meter divide and now burgeoning flock of birds, felt compelled to converse. She is five months pregnant, her partner has lost his employment, at least in the short term, and she is now the main bread winner, working at a local hardware chain on the registers. I asked how she was coping. “I’m dealing with probably a thousand transactions per day , but I’m ok”. She shrugged. “And its only what, 8 people who have died so its not too bad is it?” “Sixteen actually”, I corrected her. “And perhaps its Italy that we should be watching. They’re losing 800 per day.” I was surprised at my own gentleness, because I was astonished at the naivety, or worse. Her eyes opened wide. “800 dead? Every day!? That’s terrible! Horrible!” She was silent for a while. I decided to shift the topic by enquiring why she was in the outer northern suburbs. She brightened again. “I have an ultra-sound! I’m finding out the sex of my baby today! It’s my first!” Her excitement was palpable, and nothing was going to ruin her day. I mulled over the likelihood that for a person in her position, only looking at the wonderful was appealing. Who is to question the validity of that?

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And then there was Ian, an older gent who pushed a trolley laden with assorted products past me at a polite distance and perched himself on a ledge. He brandished a take-away coffee like a trophy. Eat-in has been outlawed for several weeks but cafés are entitled to serve takeaway products, and most have availed themselves of this right. The very survival of their Business may hinge on it. He gave me a nod and holding the cup aloft declared that as long as he could have his morning caffeine, all was well.

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As a coffee addict myself, I could only smile in agreement. I was curious about the central yellow stain on his moustache, wondering if it’s origins lay in his choice of daily beveridge. A pondering which was soon answered by the production of a cigarette. He lit it and drew heavily with apparent studied concentration, before alternating coffee sips with tobacco plumes. Ian wasn’t terribly bothered by the situation either. He was put out, inconvenienced, but not overly worried. He’d retired a year or so ago. He’d survived a heart attack. And three bouts of cancer. Given the rate at which he’d ploughed through the first cigarette and deftly moved to a second, I was less surprised at his list of ailments than the fact he’d survived them. But no, he could take Covid in his stride. It was unfair that he couldn’t go fishing or shooting though. Being confined to the house just wasn’t his thing. So, he came to shop for minor incidentals every day, and fetch his morning coffee. He would exist under the requirements, but never enjoy them.

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Elsewhere has seen the emergence of new jobs, and new ways of doing things. Coles – one of two premier supermarket chains – suddenly stationed a staff member at the entry, tasked with wiping down the trolley and basket handles before customers could take one. Taped crosses and lines have appeared like overnight mushrooms on floors, indicating suitable clearances from fellow shoppers. The chaos of the early weeks, which saw shelves stripped of all manner of personal and cleaning goods, has abated somewhat. It has been replaced by a calm determination, as it were. The manic has gone, and instead people go about their needs with quiet resolve.

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A young security guard – presumably required after some confrontations between shoppers back in the Great Toilet Paper Shortage days of early March – keeps a small copy of the New Testament in his pocket. I’ve seen him flicking through its pages in an idle moment. His unease seems to aptly sum up the environment in which we’re all functioning at the moment. I make sure to say hello to him every day, he is just a boy and looking for strength in his faith. Hopefully he can find some in the people caught up in all this with him.

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Some stores have taken to becoming shop fronts only. You ring a bell, place an order for whatever goods you may need and they’re fetched from the bowels of the shop behind the makeshift counter. To my mind, it’s an appropriate and ingenious system that limits the amount of hands that have contacted an item, and the inherent slowness is not a problem. Not any more. The incidental foot traffic has plummeted anyway. Chemists run a similar system. Only a few customers are allowed in at a time, everyone is offered – nay, has enforced upon them- a squirt of hand-sanitiser. It has become a condition of entry.

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Masks have become de riguer for many folk, as habitual a part of their daily uniform as a hat. Some wear gloves. Cash is undesirable, far better to tap and go with the card. The Electrical Wholesaler I use for my materials won’t sell to cash customers at all. If you don’t have an account, we aren’t for you. I’m trying to keep domestic jobs to a minimum. If its an emergency, ok. If you just want a few powerpoints installed, sorry, you don’t want me in your home and I don’t want to be there. This is the new normal. For how long, none can say.


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We have made some terrible errors here. Mainly around cruise ships and lack of strict quarantining for people arriving from overseas. As far as I can see, we lost six weeks and countless chances through these errors. And of course, we have our share of ignorant and unthinking citizens. But by and large, we have shifted to the new reality relatively seamlessly, and kept a sense of humour about it all. And there’s an overarching perspective to all of this that cannot be ignored. When we look around the world at how others are faring, at the grief, the chaos, it’s quite a straightforward answer to the first question I posed. I needn’t even dare question my good fortune.

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Wishing all readers good health and safety.

All images taken with Olympus Em5 Mkiii, Olympus 75mm/1.8, Panasonic GM5, Panasonic 14mm/2.5
 
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very well written,
certainly difficult, frustrating and sad times.

But the good is happening and people are quickly adapting and ingenuity abounds.
People find ways to do things when once it was impossible, taboo, not worthwhile.
Yesterdays ways are just that and todays are different, forced on us by necessity, not wrong or dodgy but often oozing in brilliance and driven by the human compassion that is within each one of us.
That which drives us to better things and not settle on the impossible or the mundane,

I've experienced much change through this time and goodness and I keep reminding others that we need to embrace these new ways thrust upon us and take them on into the future and not be dragged back to old habits that have no relevance now and yet will surely tug at the hearts of some, many, when life starts to relax and our pining for better times tend to lead many back down those distant paths that should have been repaved with our bright and ingenious ideas long ago.

I look forward to better times, but not for the old times to return, but for a new season where we do things naturally different and we prosper in that.

I applaud the works of our frontline health workers - thankyou and the tireless efforts of our police as they face at times a hostile element of the worst of humanity.

I too wish all a healthy and safe life as we work through the present unpleasantries.
 

saladin

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What a truly remarkable photo-essay. Thank you.

Keep safe, we will make it through this!
Many thanks for the kind words.

Indeed we will, though the cost for many will be high.

Stay well.
 

saladin

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very well written,
certainly difficult, frustrating and sad times.

But the good is happening and people are quickly adapting and ingenuity abounds.
People find ways to do things when once it was impossible, taboo, not worthwhile.
Yesterdays ways are just that and todays are different, forced on us by necessity, not wrong or dodgy but often oozing in brilliance and driven by the human compassion that is within each one of us.
That which drives us to better things and not settle on the impossible or the mundane,

I've experienced much change through this time and goodness and I keep reminding others that we need to embrace these new ways thrust upon us and take them on into the future and not be dragged back to old habits that have no relevance now and yet will surely tug at the hearts of some, many, when life starts to relax and our pining for better times tend to lead many back down those distant paths that should have been repaved with our bright and ingenious ideas long ago.

I look forward to better times, but not for the old times to return, but for a new season where we do things naturally different and we prosper in that.

I applaud the works of our frontline health workers - thankyou and the tireless efforts of our police as they face at times a hostile element of the worst of humanity.

I too wish all a healthy and safe life as we work through the present unpleasantries.

Thank you.

I do think all this will change things irrevocably . From the very small, to the overall umbrella, i think we will see changes in all area's of life. Will we, perhaps, forget again over the decades to come? Maybe. But technology and development will roll on, and as always bring both positive and negative aspects with them.

Be safe down there in Tassie. If they can get the nosocomial outbreak under control at Burnie, your state can just about get on top of Covid. Hoping you do. It's a beautiful part of the world that I hope to be able to visit again soon.

Regards.
 

cnyap

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On some island near NY City, they are burying people (with no apparent relatives) in mass graves....been on the news quite a bit here.
“Only” 450 have been infected and 8 died in my county of 465k residents so far (Onondaga county. Syracuse city is 200k of that I guess).
 

saladin

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On some island near NY City, they are burying people (with no apparent relatives) in mass graves....been on the news quite a bit here.
“Only” 450 have been infected and 8 died in my county of 465k residents so far (Onondaga county. Syracuse city is 200k of that I guess).
Yes, we've seen that footage here, too. Absolutely terrible. Italy and Spain have had similar heartbreak, other countries too no doubt. If you delay, let this thing get out of hand and overwhelm the health workers, it's catastrophic.

Thoughts to everyone effected.
 

OldRex

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Jason, great photo essay, and I really relate to that incremental feeling of uneasiness occurring. The last week i was "on site", every day felt a little more weird than the previous.

Feeling now like maybe we will be one of the lucky few countries that has a chance at actually wiping this thing from our shores and getting out and about again.
Australia keep up the good work!
 
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Weather is unseasonally warm in the UK this Easter weekend. However, it's said that around 90% of the population is complying with the stay at home guidelines - which are just that - guidelines rather than laws. Trouble is with a law is that there would need to be 100s if not 1000s of exceptions. There is anecdotal evidence that the policy is beginning to work. The 111 service were the quietest they had been in weeks on my wife's shift yesterday - call queues of a few dozen whereas last week they were measured in many 100s.

The Midlands is one of the UK's COVID hotspots. A friend's father died from this disease on Thursday. Several of my family are recovering from it.
 

saladin

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The Midlands is one of the UK's COVID hotspots. A friend's father died from this disease on Thursday. Several of my family are recovering from it.

Condolences, Richard. And best wishes for you and everyone around you.
 

RickinAust

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Great post and pics. You've captured the mood and atmosphere of Melbourne exactly. I think the last pic of the lady standing at the train door exactly captures the impact on everyday life of this pandemic. Alone waiting for the door to open and let her out of the nightmare (metaphorically speaking). Deserted peak hour trains were the most confronting sight for me. I used to take a peak hour train that was packed every day but I'm now working from home. Took the dog for an early morning walk past the station last week and you could count the passengers on one hand!
Feel extremely sad for all the countries that have suffered horrendous loss of life from this.
I think in Australia and Melbourne we are very lucky so far, but as with a lot of things some times you make your own luck.
 

saladin

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I think in Australia and Melbourne we are very lucky so far, but as with a lot of things some times you make your own luck.

We're still going ok, national cases are very low - just 13 yesterday, though its still fluctuating a fair bit- and if we can get a couple of health-system outbreaks (mainly in Tassie) under control we'd be close to Covid free. Likewise the errors with the cruise ships, that has cost us a lot. There are also a couple of concerning reports - globally as well- that people are showing initial symptoms AFTER their 14 day quarantine period. It might need to be 3 weeks to be certain. And we'd need at least three weeks of no cases to start to feel confident that its gone, for now at least.

But if we look at New York, or London, or Italy, or almost anywhere else, we've been incredibly fortunate. So far.
 
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Lockdown Life, 2020

Wishing all readers good health and safety.

All images taken with Olympus Em5 Mkiii, Olympus 75mm/1.8, Panasonic GM5, Panasonic 14mm/2.5
A very moving and accurate summary - from a fellow Melburnian.

We must all abide by these restrictions.

We are both in our seventies, with underlying health conditions. If either of us get this, chances are we are dead ...

Imagine the distress of a doctor/nurse who has to take a ventilator off one of us to give it to someone with a better chance of survival, if our hospitals become overwhelmed. That's the decision waiting just around the corner for us (or someone else), next to the guy in black with the big sickle.

Just heard the news an hour ago (midday, 21 April 2020) that the Japanese experiment with loosening restrictions has come badly unstuck :eek-31: :crying:.

Sweden never seems to have gotten the message in the first place:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/

74% of resolved cases were resolved by death ...

USA is heading for a social disaster with their poor, homeless and elderly only surviving by good luck.

I am extremely worried for Africa, India and South America generally.

It is still nothing like as bad as the bubonic plagues of the middle ages, but it's early days yet.

Wishing everyone reading this good health.
 
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Tomorrow there might be two more people on those empty trains. All my team have been working from home for the last month, but tomorrow I need to go to our Docklands office to welcome a new person to the team - she was offered the job pre-COVID-19 but it took a while for her security clearance to be approved. Hopefully we'll be able to have her working from home by the end of the week.

I am so missing my daily trips to the city and Docklands with the opportunities to see life on the streets.
 

saladin

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It certainly feels like there are more people on the move recently. I don't think there's much doubt -baring a surge in case numbers - that Victoria's restrictions will be eased a bit on May 11.

Stay safe, everyone.
 
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