Lockdown blues

By Indira Laisram
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L-R: Kelvin Angom, Natasha Chaku, Anil Joseph, Sue Drummond

Under stage three lockdown, here’s what some Melburnians are feeling

As Melbourne and some regional areas of Victoria enter stage three of lockdown just few weeks after it was lifted, there are mixed reactions among Melburnians. While some call it a need of the hour, others feel this is detrimental to life, yet some others believe this will give the city one more kiss of life—with more clearer skies, less traffic and a possibility for change. However, will the second lockdown weather the pandemic is the one question on everybody’s mind as they hunker down once again to six weeks of isolation life.

Anil Joseph, CEO of Worldwide Digital Solutions Pvt Ltd and a resident of Caroline Springs, is not so happy as he feels that the second wave is more self-inflicted and one that was avoidable had both the community and the state machinery taken proper precautions. “The fact that its only applicable to Victoria makes it even worse as our business, education, sports, and even daily life, would take that much longer to get back to normal. That puts all Victorians in a major disadvantage as compared to the rest of the country.

“The first one was a forced lockdown based on global circumstances which were beyond our control and hence was a successful one due to active self-participation of the entire community. When the restrictions were finally lifted, there was a general feeling among the community that things would gradually get back to normal,” rues Joseph.

There is no room for complacency, believes Natasha Chaku, Melbourne’s PTI correspondent. “In my opinion, Premier Dan Andrews has taken the most painful but a very crucial decision of reverting to Lockdown with stage three restrictions. The announcement has come just as when we were all about to go back to some normalcy in our lives in this COVID-19 stricken year.  However, the Lockdown is the need of the hour and there is no place for complacency now for all of us given the massive spike in new infected cases.”

In the same vein, Sue Drummond, a social worker and educator from Melbourne who has been isolating herself in Woodend, says, “I feel like this needs to happen to avoid an even greater health crisis. Having said that, it breaks my heart that people are in hard lockdown in the public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington. This virus has certainly exacerbated inequalities that already existed here. It breaks my heart to see how this virus has decimated many countries… We are so lucky here to have a free public health system.”

“We are seeing some of the worst numbers since the start of COVID-19 and while there is a general feeling of despondency and disagreement, its equally important that the community buckles down and fights this situation”
— Anil Joseph

Kelvin Angom, an IT professional from Werribee, knew that becoming a father for the first time at the start of the year would change his life. What he didn’t know was the fact that the novel coronavirus would change his life altogether and “so fast”.

“Now with stage three lockdown, it’s quite sad that I have to drop all the plans which I had for my daughter. Like everyone, I do feel health is the top priority now but at the same time, I am also worried about financial aspects being a contractor,” says Angom.

Marketing manager, Katrina Barker, resident of Watsonia, recently got herself tested recently as she was not feeling well. “I felt responsible and didn’t go to work especially in this current crisis,” she says. But no sooner did her test results come out negative and she was jumping with joy than the announcement of the lockdown came.

“This means that I might have to work some days from home. With three adult children confined to the house and a son who has special needs, it is going to be a challenging time once again,” she says.

But for some others who were already in the hotspot zones, this has been a feeling of relief as the ‘discriminatory look’ they have been subjected to by virtue of living in suburbs wih high number of COVID-19 cases will disappear.

Harmeet Sarabjeet Singh, a school teacher from the hotspot suburb of Craigieburn, finds the lockdown a bit absurd. “Life was going on as usual. People from my suburb who were employed in other areas were still going out for work. Shopping places were also packed and no one was wearing a mask. We also don’t see much of police presence around.”

Singh also cited an incident that happened to a friend, and one that left her confused. The friend wanted to send a courier to India but the courier company told the friend that they could come pick it up but they wouldn’t take the courier from her if she came to post it herself because she lived in a hotspot suburb. “This is sheer double standards because I know of someone else who lives in a place which was not yet deemed hotspot but had high cases nonetheless and the courier company was accepting anything from there. How can you segregate this way?” fumes Singh.

L-R: Surkeinya, Harmeet Sarabjeet Singh, Joylakshmi, Katrina Barker

Joylakshmi, a support line worker with the government from the same suburb, was livid when she had to isolate herself much earlier from all her friends as she has no family in Melbourne. But with all of Melbourne now under general lockdown, there is the consolation that she is not on the boat alone.

In a time of fear and strained feeling, this adaptation to a new way of life once again has varied expressions.

“We are seeing some of the worst numbers since the start of COVID-19 and while there is a general feeling of despondency and disagreement, its equally important that the community buckles down and fights this situation. The state machinery should come together and make sure that restriction rules are implemented. The numbers can reduce in as less as 14 days and the restriction can slowly start easing which will help everyone get back to normalcy,” says Joseph.

He further adds, “On a personal note, the lockdown will affect my business due to restrictions on travel as well as the uncertain economic conditions. For my daughter Joanne, who is a national squash player, it affects her training and development as other players in other states are now playing freely while in Victoria no training facilities are open for another six weeks. The more this uncertainty is pushed towards the latter half of the year, the more it will be difficult for everyone to bounce back quicker.”

Surkeinya Nongmaithem, a marketing analyst from Melton, is at a loss trying to figure out a constructive response. “More than the virus, I am worried about my son’s mental health. Children living under lockdowns are dealing with feelings of anxiety with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression as they struggle with boredom and feelings of isolation. We know that our government is trying its best to control this problem but how do we handle the new changes and get adjusted to this new way of life? How does a child stay all alone in one room doing nothing and waiting for the parents to come out and play with them?”

“My only worry now is how to manage school going kids who are more likely to carry this virus around. According to a media report, senior students of the Al Taqwa College in West are said to be main source of state’s second-largest COVID-19 cluster. If that is the case then keeping schools open during this health crisis is too dangerous,” says Chaku.

“On the bright side, I am taking the opportunity to spend more time with my daughter and family, unlock new skills, and help my wife by saving time on the commute to work. My takeaway during this lockdown is to spend time wisely”
— Kelvin Angom

Sarabjeet Singh believes that this cruel paradox of a crisis calls for solidarity especially with international students and those with small jobs. “They are facing the brunt because they are not getting any jobs. Students are not even getting jobs such as cleaning or ones that involve door knocking as these now go to either permanent residents or citizens. Many taxi or Uber drivers have lost their livelihood too. It’s not an easy life.”

Keeping optimism alive, others such as Angom and Joylakshmi are doing their best to disappear into the great indoors.

“On the bright side, I am taking the opportunity to spend more time with my daughter and family, unlock new skills, and help my wife by saving time on the commute to work. My takeaway during this lockdown is to spend time wisely and be a responsible person for my own sake and everyone’s safety and wellbeing.  Hope this difficult time for everyone ends soon,” says Angom, adding “I am happy changing nappies for my daughter.”

Joylakshmi says, “Luckily, working from home fills my time and rest of the day, I watch TV and spend time on social media. I miss catching up with my friends, going out for a drink, visiting restaurants, movie theatres and travelling during long weekends. I guess I have to do the right thing now, take precautions, follow the advice of doctors and abide by the rules.”

Drummond is curing her quarantine blues living in country Victoria. “I feel very privileged as we are not in lockdown here.  I will miss seeing my son and mother who live in Melbourne. However, am able to see my daughter and dad on a daily basis, enjoy walking and moving about freely, except to Melbourne that is. I plan to spend the next six weeks studying and practising the harmonium. I have a very strict teacher who keeps me accountable for practicing! I will probably continue to eat way too much, and binge watch Netflix as well!”

Hopefully, when the signs indicate that this virulent virus is under control, Melburnians will get return to normal life!


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