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Lessons for the second lockdown from Melbourne
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

What a second lockdown is like, according to the city that lived it

To all the cities going back into lockdown, here’s a message from the future – courtesy of Melbourne

By Rebecca Russo
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G’day! It’s us, Melbourne – the bustling, beautiful city in Australia that’s weathering through one of the longest second lockdowns in the world. Hey! How’s it going?

So we hear you’re possibly going back into lockdown again soon. That really sucks. If it were a 2020-friendly thing to do, we’d totally give you a hug. No one wants to be locked down again, and the financial strain on businesses coupled with challenges to mental health will likely mean your city will struggle for a while. Believe us when we say we get it.

Melbourne went into a lockdown back in March like everyone else. Things were looking relatively OK after two months in lockdown – Australia as a whole managed to curb the spread. 

In late May and early June, or what we like to call the “between times”, we began to open up again. We could go out for day trips, eat in restaurants, go to the cinemas and have people over. It was nice. Things seemed like they were getting back to normal.

However, in late June (the middle of Australia’s winter) the case numbers began to increase. In July, Melbourne’s state of Victoria was put back under a form of lockdown. As the weeks wore on the case numbers kept increasing, with our worst day of number peaking at 725 on August 4. (Victoria has a population of about 6.2 million people.)

Mandatory mask-wearing was introduced outdoors. We couldn’t travel further than five kilometres to go shopping or exercise. We could only leave home for one hour a day, and there was an 8pm curfew. You could only meet up with one other person outside and you had to keep your distance. It was stressful, to say the least.

What was only meant to last six weeks ended up lasting around 100 days. Just one case was recorded on Tuesday, October 20, a far cry from the triple-digit numbers we saw back in August.

I’m not going to pretend this hard lockdown was easy. But here’s the thing: we did it, and so can you.

The one thing we realised during our second lockdown is that you shouldn’t underestimate the strength, the compassion and the guts it takes to be this resilient and adapt to each and every wild curveball 2020 throws at you. Sure, people will be angry, but there are a few things you should look out for during your second lockdown. And take it from us – there is a light at the end of the tunnel… it’s a little hard to see, but it’s there. 

Here are a few things that will likely happen during your city’s second lockdown:

1. People will be angry

Anti-lockdown protests, “plandemic” graffiti and defiant hairdressers were all part and parcel of Melbourne’s second lockdown, so you’ll probably have to deal with all that, too. Here’s a hot tip: avoid social media comment sections at all costs. 

2. You’ll recall things you did in lockdown 1 and wonder how you did it

Lockdown two is nothing like lockdown one. When we first went into lockdown we were weirdly giddy and determined to make the best of it. We communicated constantly, started baking sourdough and organised Zoom drinks. This time around, our naive optimism about the future was replaced with cynicism and a worldly exhaustion. (If you want to dig deeper into everything that changed between lockdown one and lockdown two, read this.

3. You will get sad

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’ll be heading into a cold and dark winter under lockdown. We had that, too. On one hand, it’s actually fine to be inside when outside feels like the Arctic. But December holidays sure won’t be the same when you can’t visit your family. Naturally, a bit of SAD will settle in. You’ll find yourself losing track of time, forgetting important things at work, and you probably won’t have the energy to cook, clean, exercise or do all the things you got into the habit of doing during the first lockdown. And as a result...

4. You will start listening to a lot of sad music

‘You will start listening to a lot of sad music’Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

I’m not saying it was perfect timing, but Taylor Swift happened to drop Folklore the week Melbourne went back into lockdown, so crying along to ‘Exile’ seemed to bond many us during a tough time. I’m not saying you need to beg Ms Swift to drop another genre-defying album during your lockdown, but maybe you could petition for Ariana, JLo, Megan Thee Stallion or the like to drop the pop act and lean into the melancholy. It really helped. 

5. Outdoor hangs will be necessary, but tough 

Melbourne can get pretty damn cold during winter. But we weathered it all to see our friends. We had to stick to our two-person hangs, which had to be disguised as “exercise” (I have never done so much aimless wandering in my LIFE), and we still lapped it up because talking to someone in person is a really nice feeling.

6. You’ll realise how important it is to talk to people

If you can’t see friends or family IRL, keeping in contact with them is so much more important than you realise. Really make an effort to call your mum. Talk to your neighbour. Zoom your bestie. Be kind to the person in line in front of you at the supermarket. Everyone is finding this hard, so kindness is key.

7. You’ll realise how important it is to check in on yourself  

It’s the Australian way to laugh a bit about how *wild* second lockdown is, but it’s likely you will feel overwhelmed at times. We learned it was extremely important to talk about how we were feeling and that there were always people to reach out to, be that a mate, a family member or a professional. It will be OK, even if it doesn’t look like it will be.

8. Things are going to get weird

Second lockdown according to Melbourne: ‘Things are going to get weird’Photograph: Shutterstock / Dave Hewison / Time Out

You might have thought things got weird under lockdown one, but it’s only going to double down. You’ll start talking to your plants. You’ll start dreaming about forgetting your mask at home. You’ll adopt a dog just to have some company. You’ll become addicted to TikTok. You’ll watch every episode of Emily in Paris unironically. You’ll start picking up bananas and pretending they’re phones (I’m not talking from experience, but… be warned). 

9. You will envy with other cities not in lockdown

During Melbourne’s second lockdown, Sydney was open again. It was back to relative normality, along with every other city in Australia – and that sucked. Seeing our friends (and colleagues!) going to bars, having house parties, going to art galleries… let’s just say a few people may have got blocked on Instagram. But we’re not horrible people – we were happy for them! They managed to kick this better than we did.

However, if you find yourself in a similar situation, just make sure your non-locked down friends know what not to say to someone in lockdown. “How was your weekend?” becomes quite triggering when all you did was have a panic attack and rearrange your kitchen cabinets for the fourth weekend in a row. 

10. It will get better

OK, you probably guessed we’d say this. But it is true – things will get better, and you will be able to get back to some semblance of normal once again. You just have to get through this tough slog.

My remedy? Dance it out. Watch a trashy show. Call your nonna and listen to her complain about her neighbour’s loud cockatoo. Just remember to be kind to others and remember why you’re doing this: so you can return to your beautiful city with everyone else and enjoy all its best bits. Stay strong!

Read on: What Melbourne has learned in 100 days of lockdown.

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