People walk past a cafe after the coronavirus disease restrictions were eased for Melbourne in Australia on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS

Melbourne opens up dining, shopping as four-month virus lockdown lifted


Melbourne's shops, restaurants and hotels opened for business on Wednesday after a four month coronavirus lockdown, with happy customers enjoying alfresco eating in the spring sunshine and shopkeepers hoping for big sales to make up for lost revenue.

The state of Victoria and its capital Melbourne, Australia's second most populous city, has been the epicenter of COVID-19 infections, but the strict lockdown has ended a second wave, with only two new cases and two deaths overnight.

"Around 180,000 workers can return to work on site. That is an achievement that every single Victorian should be proud of," state premier Daniel Andrews told a regular media briefing.

"We all have to follow the rules, to protect staff, to protect customers, to protect this fragile thing that we have built...So we can have the Christmas we have been looking forward to, with the people we have missed the most."

On Melbourne's Carlisle St, in the dining district of Prahran, patrons were seated at outdoor dining tables, drinking coffees and eating brunch of smashed avocado and eggs on toast.

A sign outside the Las Chicas restaurant advertised for any experienced barista and floor staff to "drop in a resume"."It’s quite a sunny day here in Melbourne. It’s not over yet, but I’m pretty excited about things opening up again," said student Ben Israelson, 22, who was drinking coffee with a university friend.

Israelson, who lost his part-time job as a hearing aid salesman in late March, said he was optimistic he would find work through a placement as part of his university studies next year.

A few shops down, at salon and retail store Beautyologist, director Sia Psicharis said she was braced for a heavy day of retail sales while readying beauty services like eyebrow waxing and laser hair removal, to open up on Friday. Other salons opened Wednesday.

In the seven months the store was closed, she had invested in staff training on skin treatments and speciality Australian beauty brands, taking advantage of government assistance but also topping up their salaries.

"It was sink or swim, we put all our efforts into our social media and our ecommerce," she said. "Now, I’m feeling really excited, optimistic, can’t wait to get into it. We have got Christmas coming up so it’s an exciting time."

Salons and restaurants still have to comply with strict spacing requirements that cap dining numbers at 10 per indoor space and 50 outdoor, which will make it uneconomic for some businesses to reopen. Others have already closed for good.

Dotted among the cafes, bakeries, and barbers on the shopping strip were vacant shop fronts plastered with For Lease signs.

Strict social distancing measures, mass testing and swift contact tracing has seen Australia successfully combated a fresh outbreak of the virus, having stamped down cases from more than 700 a day in July, even as many other developed countries grapple with a third wave of record infections.

Eight new cases were reported in Australia's most populous state New South Wales on Wednesday. Seven were overseas travelers in hotel quarantine and one was local. Queensland state logged two cases, bringing Australia's total cases to 27,552.

Success against the virus, as well as fiscal and monetary stimulus, appears to be pulling Australia's economy out of its first recession in three decades, which it briefly entered this year, although lower immigration and high unemployment will keep the recovery path uneven, a Reuters poll showed this week.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Melbourne has done it hard but under the circumstances but I reckon they've pulled through brilliantly. Heres hoping they can get back on their feet again and find at least a semblance of normality. Lot of armchair experts out there thinking the measures were excessive, and perhaps so, but they made the call, stuck to it and brought the numbers right down again. A credit to the good people of Victoria.

Even if Covid does prove to be not as dangerous as first thought, no one knew that back then and the horror scenes coming out of places like Italy you would've had to be a dangerous mug not to take the situation seriously. Everything's clear in hindsight of course. Big learning curve for all and now we get to see the post corona World 2.0 from it's inception. What it will look like is still anyones guess. Stay safe and upbeat people, we are turning the corner on this thing finally it seems. Back to business; smarter, leaner, hungrier.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Even if Covid does prove to be not as dangerous as first thought,

America tells a story. The average yearly mortality in the US from flu over the past 10 years is approx 35,900.

The worst year it was 61,000 and the best figure was 12,000. In eight months in the US which has had cities and states taking the precautions of masks, social distancing and discouraging large crowds the figure is over 227,000 dead. People do not normally social distance or isolate or wear masks when they get the flu or in flu season. Any way you look at the figure the covid virus is many times more deadly than the flu making precautions necessary to reduce its deadly effects.

Melbourne has handled it's second wave in the way designed to reduce mortality to a minimum, and in the process has reduced the numbers catching the flu during flu season. American and European cities should follow Melbourne's example if they wish to save lives and keep case numbers down in a manageable range.

It is not easy but what would you do to save a family member from passing before their time, in what by all accounts is a drawn out experience that feels like drowning?

Good job Melbourne, enjoy your beers and the spring sunshine. Be proud of your achievement.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ricky Kaminski, Peter14:

Smart posts, gentlemen.

It's not over yet (won't be till it's over worldwide) but we're in a better place to handle whatever comes up next than we were pre-lockdown.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

And what will they do in Victoria when new cases pop up again? If you are thinking of taking a job as a barista in Melbourne, don't, get the heck out of Victoria if you can and be a barista in Brisbane. Just drop off the key Lee, and set yourself free.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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