Our family decided to move from San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia in July 2020. Although we’d been planning this move for years, it took a global pandemic, the opportunity to work remotely and the added excitement of moving with a toddler and while pregnant with baby #2 for us to pull the trigger. Our timing was impeccable 🙂
Moving to the city with the strictest COVID restrictions in the world
We moved from the land of the free to the home of the lockdown. We arrived in Melbourne after quarantining in a Sydney hotel for two weeks. We landed in Victoria on day 2 of the Stage 4 lockdown. And Stage 4 is no joke. It entailed the cancelling of all incoming international flights and the government would fine you if you traveled outside 5km (3 miles) from your house, if you went to the grocery store with another member of your household, if you broke the 8pm curfew, exceeded the 1 hour outdoor exercise limit or gathered with any person outside of your immediate household. And of course if you didn’t wear a mask.
Talk about a departure from the US where I saw my friends traveling across the country for summer vacation, eating out (maskless, obviously) at restaurants, sending their kids to daycare and mostly living their lives business as usual. I was jealous and confused.
Here I was in a new country, with a new, empty house, a toddler, a very pregnant belly, no furniture, no ability to go out shopping for furniture (since non-essential stores were closed and I could only pick up from within 5km of my house) and a boatload of self pity. Is this what I moved here for?
The most surprising aspects of lockdown
Everyone follows the rules! In the US, you can’t tell anyone what to do. Here, the government says that masks are mandatory and everyone wears a mask. Even now when today’s case count is down to just one new case in the entire state, everyone is still wearing masks.
5km is not that far. I used to run more than 5km and now we haven’t been able to travel outside of that radius for 3 months. We have gotten very good at knowing exactly where those boundaries are and what we can get access. Ikea and Costco — outside of our 5km. Bunnings (like Home Depot) — outside of our 5km. My favorite gelato place — just outside of our 5km (although available on Uber Eats :).
Seeing furniture in stores is really helpful. We were so fortunate to move into a new house with a yard and within a 5km walk to the beach. But, we also had no furniture. We have attempted to buy what we could online (with delivery times often extended to over 3 months) but we can’t wait to see, touch and sit on furniture when stores open. The $7 folding chairs have served us well, but this preggo lady is ready for a real couch.
Trades people can’t come to work on the house. We have a room we use as an office, but it has no door and our toddler doesn’t quite understand spacial boundaries. Our bedroom window needs shutters to cover it to block the light. Neither of those jobs can get done since we 1) can’t pick out the materials in a store and, 2) trades people can’t come to the house for installation. So, we’ll wait. And wait. And wait.
It isn’t political. The Premier of Victoria (like a state Governor in the US) wasn’t acting based on an effort to drive some political agenda. He made very strong, swift decisions based on the data with the goal of having an intense but short lockdown to allow us to return to a “COVID-normal” state as soon as possible. People can and did disagree with his choices, but it didn’t feel political. Given it is election time in the US, this blew my mind.
So how did it go?
Turns out the lockdown lasted longer than anticipated. What we thought would be a couple of weeks has now been 12 long weeks. And while we now sit just days away from what should be a huge lifting of limitations and a grand reopening of the city, I am so grateful that this government took such a strong stance because it means that we will be able to live, almost regular lives very soon.
Melbourne sits within the Australian state of Victoria — home to about 6.36 million people. Here’s an example of the impact of how differently Victoria responded to this crises over the last few months.
July 24, 2020
- France: 514 cases
- Victoria: 532 cases
October 23, 2020
- France: 25,000 cases
- Victoria: 1 case
And maybe the comparison close to my heart is in Massachusetts where my family lives and where the population of 6.89 million people is comparable to Victoria.
July 24, 2020
- Massachusetts: 338 cases
- Victoria: 723 cases
October 23, 2020
- Massachusetts: 1070 cases
- Victoria: 1 case
As many have said, Victorians have earned it the hard way — and none harder than those hit through job loss, business shutdown and mental health challenges, but we have shown that we can beat this and come out the other end.
And it means that by November 2020, we will feel safe to go out to shops, eat at restaurants, send children to school and daycare, spend time with friends and family and enjoy the beautiful summer ahead of us.
So this American — who is watching her countrymen and women plot against US politicians who “limit” their freedoms by trying to protect them –have had my “freedoms” limited more strictly than anywhere yet in the world. And I am so grateful for it.