Remembering the Pandemic Lockdowns In Australia
I live in Australia and when someone recalls the pandemic, what they’re usually talking about is the lockdowns.
When the WHO declared a pandemic in March 2020, our governments rapidly imposed a set of measures to protect Australians from the deadly Covid 19 virus. Those measures collectively had the effect of dramatically curtailing the activities of Australians.
In the name the greater good, we adjusted to closures of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops and made masks and sanitisers part of our routines. But perhaps the most difficult adjustment was the restriction on our freedom of movement, something that we had taken for granted until then.
First international borders closed, then state borders. Our worlds got progressively smaller, to the point that we were confined to a 5km radius from our homes. In some parts of our cities there were curfews.
We were only allowed to leave our homes for reasons on a prescribed list. You couldn’t just jump in the car and go for a drive. People got into the habit of popping a frozen meal in their car so they could tell the cops they were providing care to another person — one of the few acceptable explanations for being in transit. If you were on foot you had to keep walking — we hit peak absurdity when folks in Melbourne were fined for taking a break on a park bench.
The lockdowns operated like a grim kind of musical chairs: you became frozen in whatever your living situation happened to be when the clock struck midnight. People ended up spending a lot more time with housemates and fast tracking some unlikely relationships. For those in abusive and unhealthy relationships, being confined to the home with no support network made a bad situation a whole lot worse.
New language developed to give names to strange new concepts. I still remember hearing the term ‘social distancing’ when I attended a course in the first week of March, with no idea how ubiquitous this seemingly quaint term was about to become. Later came ‘social bubbles’ and ‘bubble buddies’ and inevitably, the question of whether someone was ‘bubble-worthy’.