Stage 4 in the city. Melbourne’s La Trobe and Spencer Streets at Friday lunchtime. Even though I have been living in the Melbourne CBD since March, when the first stay at home orders were introduced, there are some days when the road traffic feels or looks emptier than usual. Lunchtime traffic on the road and footpaths of La Trobe on Friday 28 August was one of those days.

I was standing in the sun at the pedestrian crossing when I first noticed the emptiness across all the roads at the intersection. I was walking out of the home for one of the permitted essential reasons. And this is a snapshot of what I saw.

Pre-pandemic, lunchtime would normally be busy and bustling. Melbourne has a worldwide reputation as a vibrant global city, full of life, art, food and entertainment. It is a stunning city. But it’s very quiet and empty now, which is a good sign for public health.

Standing in the sun

Melbourne’s La Trobe and Spencer Streets at Friday lunchtime. A thought hit me standing at the traffic lights. There will definitely come a time when things will return to life again, a new normal. And who knows, my mind said, this empty street look under Stage 4 restrictions will become a thing of the past. So remember how this looks like. This is history in the making. So I took these photos to document this history for my own family history records.

And yes, I admit I felt a tinge of sadness seeing these empty streets and the many closed businesses along these streets. Knowing some of these businesses that I used to frequent, like the hairdressers, restaurants, cafes, this felt sad knowing some of the individuals I would normally see, before COVID-19 came along. Hope they’re doing ok.

So I took these photos while standing at the pedestrian crossing and as I was walking across La Trobe. It’s still unbelievable to me to see this, even five months later.

Balancing act

But, the other side of this pandemic challenge is that in terms of public health and preserving life from a new infectious disease and virus for which there is no vaccine, these empty streets mean the majority of Victorians are following Stage 4 restrictions.

So far in Victoria, as I write this, more than 500 individuals have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit Melbourne. Any death is a high number. And more than 2000 active cases.

That is why public health measures and restrictions are so important to comply with during a pandemic. Without public health measures to control infection spread, we’d be looking at an American style worst case scenario replica here in Melbourne. So it could be far far worse than what we’ve seen already, as we’ve been reminded by the Victorian Government’s Chief Health Officer.

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