We hear from Rich Hawkins (MH 88-93) about his life in Australia during the pandemic lockdown
|22 Jun 2020|
|Rich Hawkins (MH 88-93) shares his 'Lockdown Story' and photos |
As I write this from Sydney, we are well-down the path back to normal life post-lockdown.
Each Australian state is easing restrictions in a different way and at a slightly different pace, but here in New South Wales everything will be open again from 1 July subject to specific social distancing rules for each type of venue. Taking sports stadiums as an example, from 1 July crowds will be able to return subject to a 25% capacity rule e.g. 10,000 fans can attend a stadium with a capacity of 40,000. As stadiums in NSW are rarely more than one-third full anyway, things will feel close to normal again under the 25% rule.
So what was lockdown in Sydney like during strictest phase? Compared to what others have endured, we were very lucky. The strictest phase only lasted 6 weeks – mid-March to early May, by which point Australia had comprehensively flattened the curve and was only recording 10 to 20 new cases each day. I remember reading the UK was recording over 5000 new cases per day at that stage and this was still trending upwards.
Even during the strictest phase, we were always allowed to go out to exercise as a household or in pairs. My wife and I have two sons (10 and 8) and we all like the outdoors. So we avoided cabin fever by doing bushwalks in the local national park, and I was also doing early morning ocean swims with a friend at Balmoral, one of the Sydney harbour beaches (only a short drive from home). When we had to cancel our Easter camping trip, we put the tent up in the backyard for a few days and, with the bushfire season over, we bought a small fire pit which we sat around in the evenings. So there were some parts of lockdown which we positively enjoyed, particularly the opportunity to spend more time together as a family.
The Public Health Orders required people to work from home where it was 'reasonably practicable to do so'. This meant some workplaces like construction sites kept going throughout lockdown, albeit subject to social distancing rules. At the law firm I work for, we took the view that there were certain document-intensive matters which required office-based resources and could not be properly managed from home. So there were a number of us (including me) in the office from time to time during lockdown. This was a welcome relief from the monotony of the long period of working from home where weekdays and weekends started to merge together. I did 2 hours work one morning (pleasantly surprised not to be interrupted by a single call or email) before realising it was Saturday!
International travel will be the last thing to come back in Australia – unlikely before the end of this year – and the focus here has now well and truly moved to reviving the economy. Australia will almost certainly go into recession later this year. Remarkably, it will be the first recession in Australia for 28 years – even the global financial crisis in 2008 did not end Australia's long run of economic growth. The Federal Government has committed over $200 billion (around 10% of GDP) in supporting individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19. Billions more has been handed out by the State Governments. Most of this will have been spent by the end of September. So whilst lockdown was a relatively painless experience for many Australians, I suspect tougher times lie ahead.
My chosen photos:
3. Early morning swims at Balmoral beach – exercising in pairs was allowed throughout lockdown in NSW.
4. With Easter camping trip cancelled, the tent went up in the backyard.