17 August 2021

Canberra like you've never seen it: lockdown turns the nation's capital into a ghost town

| James Coleman
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Empty streets in Civic

Empty streets in Civic, alongside Metropol apartments. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Five days into Canberra’s snap lockdown and the sights and sounds are eerie. Shopping centres, streets and outdoor cafes that would be a bustling hive of activity on any other weekday have all fallen dead quiet.

It’s a sign that Canberrans are doing the right thing – following the health advice that will hopefully see us come out the other side of this pandemic sooner rather than later.

Region Media photographer Thomas Lucraft has captured some images of the city as we rarely see it.

The ACT Government has also released a compilation of images from several of the city’s traffic cameras, revealing great swathes of empty tarmac.

“It’s always good when there’s not much traffic on the roads. It’s especially good when we are in lockdown and images from our traffic camera network show that Canberrans are only engaging in essential travel,” the caption on the ACT Government Facebook page read.

A selection of shots from Canberra’s traffic cameras reveals largely abandoned streets. Photo: ACT Government Facebook.

Of course, it’s not a complete ghost town.

Those deemed essential workers are still out and about, including those who cannot work from home in areas such as health care, law enforcement, education, public transport, freight, grocery stores, media, and more.

To support such essential workers, the ACT Government has granted them free parking in government-owned car parks throughout the city.

Getting a test or vaccination for COVID-19 are two other valid reasons for Canberrans to leave their homes. As it stands, more than 6,000 people a day are being tested at facilities across the ACT.

Coles, Woolworths and other grocery stores remain open to ensure food is still on the table and toilet paper is still close at hand.

Bunnings is open for those sudden breakages, and Officeworks for those who were told they would now be working from home only to arrive home and discover they’d left ‘that cable’ behind. Supercheap Auto and other car repair stores continue to offer supplies for those whose wheels choose this moment to fall off.

Many cafes and restaurants have moved to offer takeaway and contact-free delivery. Order online via food delivery apps or the company itself and a hot meal will be brought straight to your door. They don’t care about the fact you’re in your dressing gown either.

When you’re not ordering food online, courier services are working around the clock to bring you your other parcels.

Everyone is allowed to venture within a five-kilometre radius of their home for one hour of outdoor exercise every day.

Be sure to carry a mask with you whenever leaving the house, but don’t feel compelled to wear it outdoors if the exercise is vigorous or if no other person outside your household is around.

This has all happened before. It’s a drill which – 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic – we’ve learnt almost off by heart. We know what to do.

But that’s not to say it still isn’t a struggle for many. Humans are largely social beings – take that away and there will be suffering.

These latest ACT restrictions seek to bear that in mind by allowing those living on their own to pick one other household to visit for company. Households can go for walks together outside. And emotional and mental health services like Lifeline are never far away from those who want to talk.

Hang in there. It will be back to business as usual soon enough, and these pictures will be a quaint memory.

Stay up-to-date with COVID-19 information and advice on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

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“Everyone is allowed to venture within a five-kilometre radius of their home for one hour of outdoor exercise every day.” This is precisely why we should only trust the official information, rather than the version produced by the media. (“… you can leave your home during this lockdown … to exercise outdoors for one hour per day in your region …” copied and pasted from https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/act-status-and-response/lockdown#Stay-at-home) and the version produced by the media. With all due respect, James, at this point in time, we need factual and totally accurate information not editorialising – “your region” and “a five-kilometre radius of their home” are not the same. Total pedantry, I know, but those looking for any out will take it, so a little more care will ensure a consistent message.

Oh, my apologies, James – I forgot to add, otherwise, great article.

Careful with the parking. NCA’s website says that they are still enforcing paid parking.

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