I've been receiving and exchanging many stories of lockdown with friends, colleagues, partners and customers in different cities around the world. They make for interesting reading. While I get permission to share them, I'll give you a glimpse into mine.
I call several cities home throughout the year and made a conscious decision to wait through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne. I did not regret that decision.
COVID-19 around the world
Hawker centres were still open for dine in in Singapore and several large gatherings continued into April. Thailand's nationwide curfew and closure of Bangkok businesses sent tens of thousands of workers returning to their hometowns.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was being kept in St Thomas' Hospital in London for treatment. Helsinki was moving towards more normal life while still containing the COVID-19 outbreak. In New York, over 14,000 had died and the city became the world’s COVID-19 epicentre.
The Australian government restricted people's movement and declared all flights cancelled. There was no way out of the country. Pasta and toilet paper were reported to run out across the nation. The lockdown became real quickly. And without toilet paper.
COVID fever grips Melbourne City
Temperatures vacillated between hot and cold as summer and autumn wrestled for control. Pedestrian traffic in the city evaporated to a whsiper of people. The once bustling shopping centres were transformed into eerily quiet and dim alleys. You can literally taste the depressive loss of jobs and retail revenue in the air. It seemed a black hole appeared in the sky above the city and vacuumed everyone into it. The city was silent, day and night.
There is always a silver lining
While reports of pasta, rice and toilet paper shortages continued around Victoria and other parts of Australia, the City's supermarkets were adequately stocked. Having several Woolworths and Coles backed by an Aldi and dozen more Asian grocers and the well-loved Queen Victoria Market just walking distance from each other within the city means I never run out of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, staples and household items.
Another essential difference that brings comfort to a lockdown is the ability to get out and about for exercise and absorb some vitamin D. This walkable city was even more walkable as streets and laneways were largely cleared of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The ideal time was just after sunrise.
The usual rush-hour traffic was gone. The air was cool and crisp. The sky was smiling blue. The city's skyline glowed warmly. The Yarra flowed quietly along. Melbourne was serene. It was peaceful.
Residents were respectful, orderly and cooperative of government measures. There was no racial disharmony and social unrest. WIFI worked. Water flowed and lights kept on. The City of Melbourne held it all together marvelously.
Melbourne is not just one of the world's most livable cities. It turned out to be one of the most livable lockdown cities for me.
Back to normal
I look forward a beer by the Yarra, surrounded by conversations and merriment.
As the pandemic eases it grip on the city, Lord Mayor Sally Capp and her team are staging the re-opening of libraries, recreation centres and community sporting fields, albeit with strict capacity and physical distancing rules. Retail shops have re-opened. Dining establishments are welcoming patrons. Melbourne is coming back to life.