While journalists clashed with state officials over Victoria’s fourth lockdown in 14 months, masked business owners along the busiest thoroughfare in Melbourne’s inner-north displayed the city’s trademark resilience.
The state capital of six million residents has been plunged into a seven-day ‘circuit breaker’ in response to a growing Covid cluster of the highly infectious Indian strain, which ballooned to 26 cases after 11 new infections were recorded overnight.
The Whittlesea outbreak has triggered a Stage 3 lockdown which means Victorians will only be able to leave home to shop for food and essential items, get vaccinated, provide or receive care, exercise and work or study if they can’t from home.
But rather than sparking outrage, 50 minutes south in Fitzroy at least, the shutdown – which begins from just before midnight on Thursday and forces the closure of all non-essential retail across the state – is being greeted with an air of solidarity.
Rachel Bettiens, 35, manager of Brunswick Street Bookstore, was in a jovial mood as she prepared to shut up shop for the next seven days.
Ciara Hose (left) and Lily Chen (right) from vintage clothing shop Dangerfield said the seven-day shutdown is ‘not our first rodeo’
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said 10,000 primary or secondary contacts will need to either quarantine, or test and isolate, and warned the ‘number will continue to grow and change’
Ms Bettiens said she served a rush of customers after Acting Premier James Merlino announced the new measures, with many buying stacks of four or five books instead of the usual one.
‘I think people are just looking for escapism, anything to give them something to do or to make them laugh,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Holding a recipe book dedicated to sourdough bread, Ms Bettiens said she was just about to upload an Instagram photo to capitalise on the sourdough craze that started in last year’s winter lockdown.
Five minutes’ away at vintage shop OTC Clothing, owner Dave Lydiate seemed sanguine about the situation.
Mr Lydiate said there is a ‘blame game’ being played between state and federal governments, but he believes the latest Stage 3 lockdown is ‘nobody’s fault.’
‘It is what is. The quicker we get it under control, the quicker we can go back to normal,’ he said.
Bookstore manager Rachel Bettiens (pictured) was in a jovial mood as she prepared to shut up shop for the next seven days
Fitzroy florist Gay Lene (pictured) said the community was banding together and described the shutdown as a ‘necessary evil’
Across the street at Fitzroy Nursery, a small plant business owned by the same family for 37 years, the attitude was the same.
‘It’s sort of just rinse and repeat at this stage,’ said shop assistant Thomas Denning, 35. ‘We just want to get it done.’
Two doors down at Neel Loves Curls, hairstylist Jason Hilliar said his team and Melbournians in general are simply used to flipflopping in and out of lockdown.
Mr Hilliar had no complaints about the move despite the fact the salon operates on a purely brick-and-mortar basis with no capacity for selling online.
Down the road at vintage outlet Dangerfield, sales assistants Ciara Hose, 22, and Lily Chen, 26, said it feels like everyone is ‘in this together’.
‘It’s not our first rodeo,’ Ms Hose said, laughing.
Ms Chen agreed: ‘I think it was worse before the snap lockdown in February, because we had just come out of the longest one which kept getting extended.
‘It’s just sort of rinse and repeat at this stage,’ said nursery worker Thomas Denning (right)
‘In February it was as long as they said it would be and it worked, so I think – I hope – this one will be the same.’
Florist Gay Lene, who works at Flowers Vasette, said the community was banding together and described the shutdown as a ‘necessary evil’.
But not everyone was so optimistic.
Ehtisham, an Uber driver who did not wish to give his second name, was critical of both the decision to lock down and Australia’s vaccine rollout which is moving at a glacial pace in comparison to other countries.
‘I work in a workshop and do this just to get out and about,’ he said.
‘Its b******t, doing it again. I get depressed just sitting in the house.’
Health officials and senior government ministers held crisis meetings on Wednesday night before announcing the lockdown Thursday afternoon.
Healthcare workers are seen at the Albert Park testing facility in Melbourne on Thursday
Some of the Covid-hit venues in Melbourne after the virus travelled from South Australia
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said in excess of 10,000 primary and secondary contacts have been identified, and warned ‘any one of them’ could become cases over the next 14 days from their exposure.
‘We haven’t seen [a number that large] previously. There’s been opportunities to spread to people. It speaks to the infectiousness of this B161 variant,’ Prof Sutton said.
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said the contacts will need to either quarantine, or test and isolate, and warned the ‘number will continue to grow and change’.
‘Unless something changes, this will be increasingly uncontrollable,’ he said.
NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR VICTORIAN STAGE 3 LOCKDOWN
Only five reasons to leave home:
– Shopping for necessary goods and services
– Going to work or permitted education
– Exercise with a two-hour limit
– Medical reasons and care giving
– Getting vaccinated
No visitors to your home other than an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted. If you live alone, you can make a bubble with another person.
· No public gatherings.
· Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only.
· Essential retail, so supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies, other retail stores can provide click and collect.
· Childcare and kinders will be open as per the last circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year.
· Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds.
· Schools will move to remote learning, except for vulnerable children, and children of authorised workers.
· Higher education will move to remote learning only.
· Community support and recreation, accommodation, but there will be some exemptions that apply.
· Hotels, clubs, TABs and the casino will be closed,
· Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, swimming pools, spas, saunas, indoor and outdoor springs, community venues, drive in cinemas, amusements parks and arcades, creative studios, art galleries and museums, tourism, tours, and transport, and auctions can only happen online.
· Aged care facilities, no visitors except for limited reasons.
· In our hospitals, visitors only for end of life, to support a partner during birth, or a parent accompanying a child.
· In terms of ceremonies, funerals, a maximum of 10 people plus those running the service.
· Weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.
· Religious activities will not proceed other than through broadcast with a maximum of five people.
The 5km travel limit will also be reimposed for exercise and shopping, as will compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors.
All non-essential retail will close but essential stores like supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies will stay open. Cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-away.
Childcare and kinder will stay open, but schools will close and turn to remote learning.