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Frustration in Melbourne with lockdown after lockdown

Walking trails like this one at Dandenong Creek in Ringwood are one of the only places Melbournians can go to escape their homes during lockdown. (Alyce Collett/YJI)

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA – For most people in the world, mid-2021 saw an increase in freedoms. Pandemic restrictions being left behind, holidays overseas, full crowds at sporting events, life is starting to feel somewhat normal right?

Well, here in Melbourne that seems like a dream, a mere fantasy right now. 

People outside Australia may be oblivious to what life is like here, so let me paint a picture. 

Imagine this. You’re in lockdown. There are only five reasons you are legally allowed to leave your house. Most retail is shut and only available for click and collect orders. Restaurants, bars and pubs are only open for takeaway orders.

You’re only allowed to travel within a 5km bubble from your house for shopping and exercise. You are not allowed to visit anyone in their homes for any reason.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

And we Melbournians are pretty used to it. I haven’t done the math to confirm, but I read something recently that said we are approaching our 200th day in lockdown, which sounds about right. 

As I write this, Melbourne is currently in its sixth lockdown in this pandemic, and this one came only nine days after the last.

Regional Victoria – the rest of Victoria that does not include the local government areas of metropolitan Melbourne – have also had six lockdowns, but they were able to leave lockdown early a couple of times due to all the cases being located in metropolitan Melbourne.

Now the other Australian states have had their fair share of lockdowns, but none have had as many as we have, or had them last as long as ours have. 

For much of the pandemic, Melbournians have been co-operative with lockdowns. We saw what happened overseas and knew that lockdown was the key to avoiding high case numbers and deaths.

But not anymore

Maybe because of the fact that this lockdown came only nine days after the last one, maybe because it’s the sixth lockdown I’m not sure – but there’s a collective sense of frustration among Melbournians. People are complying less with the lockdown rules, and lockdown fatigue is setting in. 

Melbournians have every right to feel frustrated. While our first three lockdowns were caused due to failings within Victoria, lockdowns four and five leaked in. It’s unclear where the first covid case came from that instigated lockdown six, but there’s a theory that it’s leaked in from interstate again. 

Some people might look at the case numbers coming out of New South Wales and think that our roughly 20 cases a day is nothing compared to what they’re going through.

Well let me tell you something. This is the first big outbreak seen in New South Wales and its first real lockdown.

Not us Victorians.

In terms of the pandemic, Melbournians suffered a collective trauma last year during the second wave.

Imagine being stuck in your house all day for months on end, no idea when the end would come, all the while watching thousands of your fellow Melbournians get sick and hundreds die. It’s not a pleasant situation, certainly something I would not wish upon my worst enemy. 

Ever since, we’ve never been close to getting back to normal. We’ve always had some sort of restrictions, whether it be masks, gathering limits or something else. 

In another sign that normal is further away than ever before, officials re-imposed a curfew on Melbourne, last seen during the second wave last year.

I’m not convinced it’ll work, but someone obviously does think it will, and something drastic has to be done if we ever want to get out of this lockdown.

Seeing much of the rest of the country actually making progress back towards normal life is adding to the frustration of Melbournians.

We’re all itching to get back to normal, but every time we get even close we hit a metaphorical brick wall and we’re back at square one. 

There’s a collective sense of, “Why us? Why are we the ones that are always getting these high cases so often and long lockdowns?”

Whether it’s just bad luck, climate or some other factor, it doesn’t help Melbournians watching people in other states be able to go watch live sport, celebrate big events with family and just do the normal things we all love. 

I hope you can understand why we’re all so frustrated. In the end, we have no choice but to comply with these rules. 

The question will be whether it’s still possible to get everyone to comply. I’m certainly not convinced it is possible anymore, but time will tell.

Alyce Collett is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

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