Wednesday, August 17

Melbourne Freedom Day: World’s Most Blocked City Takes Cautious First Steps to Reopen | Melbourne

Prior to the pandemic, Melbourne had topped the list of the world’s most livable cities seven times in a row and was the fastest growing urban center in Australia.

But as major cities ignored lockdown restrictions with the arrival of the vaccine, Melbourne stores remained closed, residents were under a 9 p.m. curfew, and the usually bustling city gained a new one. title: the longest blockade in the world.

Now, after 262 days, Melbourne will take its final steps out of staying-at-home orders on Friday, October 22, battered but hopeful.

Georgia Farry has been the band reservation manager at Collingwood’s institution, the Gasometer Hotel, for four years. She says the last two have been a “roller coaster of emotions.”

When the shows were first canceled, Farry felt an “initial sense of doom.”

“So the scariest thing was … not just the announcement of another shutdown, but what would come after that: the painfully slow recovery,” he says.

“We would open, but in what capacity? We are still working on rescheduling the programs from a year ago. “

Now that the Victorian state government has released its final roadmap to reopening, which largely excludes the arts and entertainment sector, Farry feels left out.

“Everybody is celebrating coming out of the confinement, but we still feel abandoned, the places have bled to death,” he says.

The final stage of the Victorian roadmap limits venues to one person for every 4 square meters, which has left many in the entertainment industry “scratching their heads.”

Street art inspired by the running of the bulls in St Kilda
Street art inspired by the running of the bulls in St Kilda, Melbourne. Photograph: Dave Hewison / Speed ​​Media / Rex / Shutterstock

A Save our Scene petition calling for a return in stages to the reopening of music venues at 100% capacity has obtained more than 22,000 signatures online.

“I’m constantly trying to stay positive, and I feel this sense of community now more than ever,” says Farry.

When a state of emergency was declared in Victoria on March 16 last year, it was scheduled to last four weeks. Six blockades later, the state of emergency remains in effect.

As of March 30, the state had 821 active cases of Covid-19 and Victoria entered a stage three shutdown, with four essential reasons for leaving home: acquiring food and supplies, obtaining medical care, exercising and attending work. or education.

Since then, more than 71,000 Victorians have acquired the virus and more than 990 Victorians have died from Covid-19. Countless festivals, theater shows, and exhibitions have been canceled or postponed.

The states the population has been reduced by 0.6% since the pandemic struck, largely due to the impact of international border closures on overseas migration. It is the only state or territory in Australia that has seen its population decrease in this period.

Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp says the pre-pandemic growth was driven by “job opportunities and lifestyle” and that the attraction will eventually return.

“That’s still a lot here, it’s just a matter of getting going again,” he says, adding: “We are bringing activity to the streets, creatives are rejuvenating our streets, buskers are coming back, the city will be full of people and music, it’s ready to spill.

“Predictions show that there will be a time of turbulence as we find our new rhythm and form new work habits, but I’m not intimidated. I want to run straight and get to that new pace as soon as possible. “

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that the lockdowns have cost Victoria around $ 1 billion (£ 545 million) a week.

“We do not know how long it will take Victoria to recover from Covid-19, with uncertainty about when international borders will be fully reopened,” CEO Paul Guerra tells Guardian Australia.

“We hope that when we are 90% double vaccinated, all businesses will once again be without density limits, our events will work again and the borders will be opened to vaccinated tourists and international students.”

While Victoria’s unemployment rate is sitting at 4.8%, the underemployment rate is much higher, at 10% of the labor market. In September alone, Victoria’s employment rate fell by 123,000 people, while the participation rate decreased by 1.9%.

Victoria Covid-19 Update: Unvaccinated People Won't Enjoy Additional Freedoms Until 2022 - Video
Victoria Covid-19 Update: Unvaccinated People Won’t Enjoy Additional Freedoms Until 2022 – Video

A casual retail worker, Carmen Thain, went from working full time to having no shifts during closings.

Thain has only been able to claim $ 450 a week from the federal government’s Covid disaster pay, which will end once states hit 80% vaccination rates, because he cannot show that he would regularly work more than 20 hours a week. .

“It has been very stressful financially to be on $ 450 a week … my rent, bills and food for me and my pet absorb most of that money,” she says.

Thain has spent nearly all of his emergency savings on medical and veterinary bills, and he worries that once the closure is lifted and outlets reopen, contract workers will take precedence over temporary staff.

“You may need to order Centrelink [welfare payments] to survive or find another job, “he says. “Since the pandemic, my workplace has been in financial trouble and many people have been laid off.

“The pandemic has made many people lose hope about the future … but they have also been able to afford a house at the same time; people are losing most of their income.”

Confinement fatigue, especially among the younger generation, can persist beyond the lifting of restrictions.

Will Tozer, a Year 12 student in the Melbourne suburb of Strathmore, says the last two years have been difficult and while the prospect of freedom is exciting, at the moment he is only concerned about the upcoming exams.

Will Tozer and friends
“We had an unofficial graduation the other day and we went to a park … it was so strange hanging out with various people,” says Will Tozer. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

“I have lacked motivation … if you are not seeing your classmates, if you are not in school … my grades went down and so did most of my other classmates because of the confinement,” he says. “I was doing the first three classes from my bed.”

Tozer says that before five vaccinated people were allowed to gather outdoors, their relationships with friends were maintained during bike rides or three-hour PlayStation sessions.

“We had an unofficial graduation the other day and we went to a park … it was so weird hanging out with various people,” he says. “We didn’t have a formal event, we couldn’t play sports, and sports are a big part of getting away from school, an escape.”

With the restrictions finally easing, not all milestones are lost.

“Schoolboys!” Tozer exclaims, citing the week-long beach vacation that many Australian students who drop out of school celebrate after their final exams. “I’m looking forward to that. Go down to the beach with my companions and be able to travel again. Everyone will realize … we are out. “

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