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“A huge relief”, is how 25-year-old Melbourne resident Kira Day described her reaction to Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap out of lockdown.
“As strange as it sounds, it was, because if we chose to reopen sooner, it was going to mean more risk to people’s lives,” she told Guardian Australia.
“It’s easy for people to see the numbers coming down and say well that’s relatively low compared to say Italy or the US, but really you have to remember that those numbers are people.”
Day, who moved to Australia from her native California two-and-a-half years ago, has, like the rest of Melbourne, spent the past few months grappling with Victoria’s second wave of Covid-19 that has plunged the city into an extended lockdown.
Sunday’s announcement has, for some, extended that pain. The premier outlined a five-step roadmap that will prolong stage four restrictions for at least another two weeks until the end of September.
But Andrews has stressed that ending the state’s lockdown restrictions prematurely would result in a worse outcome in the long term. On Sunday, he addressed calls from some within Melbourne’s business community to open the city up sooner by saying: “Pretending it’s over because we want it to be, that is not something I will do.”
For some, like Day, that argument makes sense. Despite being unable to access any government benefits when she was stood down from her job earlier in the pandemic (she has since found new employment), she said watching the situation unfold in the US made her appreciate that governments here have “listened to science”.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m feeling grateful, but I appreciate that the government is saying, you know, that any life lost is one too many,” she said.
“People are saying we have to get on with our lives and get used to living with the virus, but seeing what’s happening in the US, hundreds of thousands of lives lost because of the economy, I mean, that’s important, [but] it’s also a government’s responsibility that people don’t have to die for the sake of the economy.”
Nonetheless, Andrews’ plan has not been universally welcomed. Prime minister, Scott Morrison, said Monday he hoped the roadmap was “a worst case scenario” and warned the Australian economy would take a significant hit from the plan.
Prof Brendan Murphy, secretary of the federal health department, seemed to echo Morrison’s criticisms, saying some assumptions in the Victorian plan were based on “a very conservative approach” to the virus.
“There’s no rulebook for this virus but I think some of us feel that, if there were more confidence in the public health response capability, you could take some slightly more generous triggers,” Murphy said.
Michelle Tran, a 31-year-old who lives in Collingwood, told Guardian Australia that while the roadmap was “pretty much” what she had expected, the long timeline for many small businesses to reopen had surprised her.
“I can see why they’re taking baby steps, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, but at the same time it’s still surprising to me how slow it is for small businesses to reopen which I feel really, really bad about,” she said.
“I’m definitely not outraged over it or anything, I know it’s going to take a while for everything to get back to normal, but they are being very careful.”
The length of Victoria’s strict lockdown has prompted significant fears about the mental health toll on residents. Last month, the Victorian coroner released statistics showing suicides in the state had not increased since last year, but mental health services had seen a significant uptick in demand.
Lifeline received more than 89,200 calls nationally in August, its second largest month in 57 years behind only April. Of those, almost 28,000 came from Victoria, a 27.6% increase on the year before.
Rachel Bowes, Lifeline’s head of crisis services, said peaks in call volumes fairly predictably followed major announcements, such as the Victorian government’s original announcement of the stage four lockdown, and ranged from concerns about job security, isolation, and people struggling to cope with children learning from home.
Bowes said changes announced on Sunday, including allowing people living alone to nominate one person to have a “social bubble” and increasing the time people are allowed to exercise would have a positive effect.
“One of the things a lot of people have found hardest is physically not being able to see someone you’re usually very close with, or just with people generally,” she said.
“It’s funny, we think things like being able to get a coffee with someone are really small things, but those small things can really help people’s mental health and it demonstrates how important having those connections are.”
Tran, a Canadian citizen who has lived in Melbourne on a skilled worker visa since the beginning of 2018, is considering moving home permanently in November. She’s currently in a relationship, and lives with two housemates, and says without those connections the second lockdown would have weighed far more heavily.
“I feel like for the most part I’m doing OK, but I feel like everyone definitely has their off moments,” she said.
“I also feel like I just have a lot to be grateful for. I’m thankful that I still have a job and a roommate and a roof over my head. If I was one of those people who couldn’t work or had to close down a business or something like that it would be so much more challenging.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Melburnians react to ‘very careful’ roadmap out of Covid lockdown | Australia news