When Katherine Reed heard Melbourne’s virus-inflicted lockdown would be tightened and extend for six more weeks, she began to cry.
The 32-year-old lives alone and has been working at home since March, when the southern hemisphere summer turned to autumn.
Like millions of others living in Australia’s second city she now faces at least another six weeks of winter isolation.
“I understand the increased lockdown,” she said, lamenting “cruel and misguided” rules that allow partners, but not friends, to visit.
From the start of this world-enveloping pandemic, experts had warned there would be bad times and good, setbacks and advances in bringing the virus to heel.
But that has not made the new stop-start existence any less strange or any less difficult to bear.
Australia had appeared to have the virus in hand, but a few clusters quickly turned into hundreds of cases a day, forcing the country’s most restrictive lockdown yet.
On Monday, as curfews loomed and authorities ordered non-essential businesses to close, book store manager Bill Morton witnessed his normally “vibrant, lovely” patch of the city transform into a “ghost town”.
Melbourne’s tram bells seem to ring out louder and longer, a reminder that the streets are nearly deserted of the city’s almost five million residents.
“People are pretty demoralized,” Morton told AFP.
“Pretty well everything is closed around here. So it’s a very strange, quite eerie atmosphere.”
During the day, the few masked walkers out for an hour-long window for exercise cautiously maneuvered around each other, conscious of social distancing rules.
The feted theaters, live music venues and buzzing restaurants of Australia’s premier cultural hub have fallen silent, with their staff and owners facing more months of uncertainty.
– ‘Years to recover’ –
From Wednesday evening offices and most businesses will be closed, and a complex set of rules will dictate when people can leave home and where they can go.
Bar owner Andrew Park has stayed afloat so far during the pandemic by scaling back to cocktail deliveries, but he is now more worried than ever.
“Foot traffic will be completely gone,” he told AFP, predicting that a curfew after 8 pm will see customers cocoon, even if food and drink purchases are still allowed in the daytime.
“My fear is people will just altogether stop ordering from local, small businesses.”
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews warned it could take the state, which includes Melbourne, “years to recover”.
Maggie May, who owns a gift shop with her husband, had adapted during an earlier lockdown.
She sold items online for the first time, a challenging but ultimately positive learning experience.
“You’re constantly trying to pep yourself up (because) if you sink into an anxiety hole then nothing is going to get done and at the end of the day you’re just going to get more anxious,” she told AFP.
The country’s hardest-hit state has recorded almost 12,000 of the roughly 18,000 cases in Australia and more than half of the 221 fatalities from COVID-19.
Morton said the book store had seen revenue drop to around 25 percent of pre-pandemic levels, leaving the 50-year-old business heavily reliant on government support schemes and rent deferrals.
“We can hang in for the time being but operating at the reduced revenue that we are, we can’t do it indefinitely,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of concern for a lot of the businesses around here, whether they’ll be able to see it through,” adding that many had already closed down permanently.
“This virus, this pandemic is taking a heavy toll”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday, acknowledging that many in Victoria will have “reached breaking point”.
The best people in Melbourne can now hope for is that case numbers are brought under control and, in six weeks’ time, they can cautiously celebrate a reopening in spring.
© 2020 AFP
Watching Fox News can be deadly — according to science
Consuming the wrong news can kill you. That’s the fundamental insight of a powerful new study about the impact of watching either Sean Hannity’s news show Hannity or Tucker Carlson’s Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News: one saved lives, and the other resulted in more deaths, due to how each of these hosts covered COVID-19.
This research illustrates the danger of falling for health-related misinformation due to dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases. These mental blindspots impact all areas of our life, from health to politics and even shopping, as a survey by a comparison purchasing website reveals. We need to be wary of cognitive biases in order to make wise decisions about our health and our politics to survive and thrive in this pandemic.
Donald Trump is biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation: study
US President Donald Trump has been the world's biggest driver of Covid-19 misinformation during the pandemic, a study from Cornell University said Thursday.
A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science evaluated 38 million articles published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between January 1 and May 26 of this year.
The database they used aggregates coverage from countries such as the United States, Britain, India, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other African and Asian nations.
They identified 522,472 news articles that reproduced or amplified misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, or what the World Health Organization has called the "infodemic."
REVEALED: Jared Kushner co-owns real estate company that could profit from coronavirus
When the reality of the coronavirus first hit U.S. headlines, President Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, put together a secretive "shadow task force" drawn from the private sector and handed out government contracts for medical equipment -- acting on his belief that "free markets" would solve the pandemic, not government. But according to a report from Mother Jones, "Kushner owns a large stake in a real estate company now poised to make money off the economic distress caused by the pandemic that Trump has been unable to tame."