Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Sydney icon-chevron-right These stark photos of Sydney’s busiest places show how empty the city now is
Sydney Opera House during shutdown
Photograph: Maxim Boon

These stark photos of Sydney’s busiest places show how empty the city now is

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What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, images of a packed Bondi Beach, heaving with people recklessly ignoring physical distancing rules, sparked outraged both at home and abroad. Since then, as confirmed cases of Covid-19 have skyrocketed and pressure has mounted for people to take isolation and distancing seriously, it seems Sydneysiders are beginning to take heed. 

Friday lunchtime is ordinarily a busy moment in the heart of any city, and Sydney is no different, under normal circumstances. Today however, the usual rolling boil of the CBD has reduced to a gentle simmer, with many of the main streets, retail hubs and tourist hotspots all but abandoned.

It’s been estimated that the number of people coming into the city every day has now shrunk by 80 per cent, as non-essential workers have increasingly opted to work from home. Some areas remain reasonably populated, such as Pitt Street Mall and Hyde Park. But by and large, Sydney’s usually bustling city streets are pretty much empty – take a look below.  

Haymarket

Sydney's China Town has been quiet since the emergence of Covid-19 in Wuhan, as members of Sydney's Chinese community began isolating. Today, at the peak of the usual lunchtime rush, only a handful of people remain.

Haymarket

Photograph: Maxim Boon

George Street

One of Sydney's busiest arteries is almost traffic free. The light rail continues to run, but is largely empty. A few people are on the streets, many with face masks, but nowhere near the usual footfall you'd expect at lunchtime.

George Street during Sydney shutdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

The Queen Victoria Building

Sydney's most popular shopping destination is largely dormant. A few shops remain open – for the most part, luxury brands that don't rely on a high number of sales. However, the majority of shops and all of the QVB's cafes and eateries are now shuttered.

The Queen Victoria Building deserted

Photograph: Maxim Boon

The Sydney Opera House and Opera Bar

It's not only Sydney's most famous landmark, but one of the true architectural icons of the world. Tourists flock here to see these famous sails in person, but with all international arrivals now barred, the Sydney Opera House is eerily quiet. Likewise the Opera Bar. With its views of the Harbour Bridge and proximity to the city, it would normally be chock-full of visitors and white-collar workers on a Friday lunchtime. Instead, its tables are empty.

The Opera House and Opera Bar

Photograph: Maxim Boon

International Cruiseship Terminal

The bungled admission of coronavirus-infected passengers from the Ruby Princess, which happened right here last week, may eventually be seen as one of the greatest mismanagements of Australian border security during the Covid-19 crisis. Today, no ships are docked here and the terminal shows no signs of life. It's uncertain when passengers will next disembark at the International Terminal, but certainly not for many months.

Cruiseship International Terminal

Photograph: Maxim Boon

The Rocks

Another major tourist hotspot, these usually thriving streets, popular for their Colonial-era charm and proximity to Sydney's famed landmarks, are in full hibernation-mode until visitors are allowed to return. Even businesses that are technically still permitted to trade have opted to close.

The Rocks

Photograph: Maxim Boon

Martin Place

At the very epicentre of the city, this public space is usually crisscrossed by workers, shoppers, visitors and tourists, hurriedly going about their business. However, only a few of the people who still remain at their workplaces in the city can be found here now, and that number is sure to dwindle further as more and more choose to remain at home.

Martin Place

Photograph: Maxim Boon

Working from home now? Check out our guide to mastering WFH.

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