On Friday morning, I woke to whispers of a third lockdown and thought ‘Here we go again’. The State’s hotel quarantine had failed yet again, and community transmission of the dreaded mutated COVID strain had begun. There were 19 confirmed cases in the State. Newspapers started reporting that Victorians were about to be hit with a snap five-day lockdown to curb the possible undetected spread of this deadlier and more transmissible virus that was ripping through the UK.
Like the rest of Victoria, we had plans and lockdown would throw everything out of the window. We had swimming classes the next day. Lunar New Year celebrations were planned for Sunday. There was school swimming starting on the following Monday and parent teacher interviews on the Tuesday.
Messages started circulating among friends and families. Someone heard from someone who knew someone who worked somewhere who vouched that lockdown was imminent. That’s how reputable news travels these days. And where there is smoke, there’s surely to be fire, right?
By lunch time, it was confirmed. Victoria and its 6.49 million residents were going into a hard lockdown again. We would only be leaving home for four reasons; essential work, medical care and care-giving, food and exercise. We would be limited to 5 KM from our home (except for work) and exercise would be reduced to 2 hours. One person would be allowed to go food shopping, once per day. Weddings were to be postponed and all non-essential businesses to close.
While lockdown causes little damage to our financial situation, for some of our family and friends, it has the potential to significantly affect their livelihoods.
A friend of mine who owns a restaurant and already struggles with staffing and revenue, was forced to cancel all of his Valentine and Lunar New Year bookings. All the time and money he spent prepping food for the weekend crowd will probably go to waste unless delivery and takeaway orders can make up for the cancelled bookings. Another friend who owns a small business running baby sensory classes only recently reopened and now has to deal with cancellations. My brother’s friend was forced to cancel his wedding today. I don’t even want to think about how that’s going to affect them financially with unused flowers and food.
While it’s easy to suggest that a five-day lockdown is necessary and pales in comparison to the devastation of a rampant pandemic, it’s still a hard pill to swallow. Victorians are still reeling from the last hard lockdown and there are those of us who have barely had time to readjust to normal life. As much as I am thankful that Australia hasn’t experienced what other countries are currently suffering through, it must be acknowledged that lockdowns cause a different kind of devastation.
The possibility of another prolonged lockdown makes me anxious, and I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to cope with going back to my studies, doing teaching placements and homeschool two children. But let’s not go there. Positive thoughts and all.
So, with the announcement of a snap lockdown to begin on Friday night at 11:59 pm, we decided to have a Lunar New Year dinner with my parents beforehand. Was it counterintuitive to have family gatherings before a lockdown? Most definitely. Probably a bit like how people gathered in pubs for a last hurrah across England before lockdown restrictions were imposed. With 19 cases across the State, I was willing to see my extended family for an hour or so.
The eight of us gathered for a quick homecooked meal and red pockets for the children. If you don’t know what red pockets are, it’s a tradition where adults usually give children, employees and unmarried singles red pockets filled with money in hopes of receiving good luck. In return, these recipients offer well-wishes for the year.
My 4-year-old son thanked my dad by saying “I hope you get to buy lots of junk to put in your house and make you feel happy.” For my mum, he wished for a magical fountain to appear in her lounge room, spurting endless supply of his favourite apple juice. The good chap made $85 buckaroos for the night.
My 8-year-old daughter thanked me by saying “I hope you don’t get fat.” You can bet she received a paltry red pocket from me. Even with the snark, she made $95 bucks for the night.
Back in my day to get that kind of money, I had to bow in front of an uncle and aunty and spout empty platitudes before they’d give a measly $5 note. And there’d be a billion children lined up in front of a billion relatives. It was a tradition you couldn’t shirk and took FOREVER. Kids these days just rock up, stick their hand out and say whatever they want and grandparents just think they’re the wittiest little beings. If that happened back in my day…
Anyway, we left after staying for an hour… a bit like Cinderella and the ball, in a hurry and not wanting to be caught when the clock struck midnight.
The small family gathering was what I needed to give me the strength and fortitude to see through this third lockdown. We’re already witnessing pandemonium at the supermarkets. Toilet paper is being stripped off shelves. Panic buying has started up again. You’d think going through a third lockdown that people would be calmer. After all, supermarkets are still open, and it’s only for 5 days. But maybe Victorians are lockdown wary and bracing themselves for the announcement of a longer lockdown. I know I am.
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