Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown is almost over and confidence is key in our economic recovery
Look, it hasn't been a lot of fun.
"Go Hard or Go Home!" Chris Hemsworth's energetic trainer yells from the video on screen as my wife and I exercise after a day of home-schooling.
Mate, stop it. We've been doing both.
As Victorians have slowly slid out of strict lockdown conditions — an 8:00pm curfew, a maximum of an hour's exercise outside, a restriction on going more than 5 kilometres from home — we're getting back to something closer to normal.
Tomorrow will see more restrictions eased.
Schools are back. Park picnics let us see friends. The weather is getting better.
This is what we consider wins after a tough winter that will leave deep scars.
The wreckage is never far away: dusty shopfronts, broken businesses, shattered livelihoods.
What Victoria has achieved has been stoic, largely silent and utterly stirring.
A community of individuals who did the right thing, put their wishes and desires aside to mask up, stay home and stop the spread.
We don't talk about it a lot, but this has been a remarkable group effort.
Now to the unwinding, with plenty of angst, blame and fear to go around.
The long road back
Victoria's economic recovery is understandably lagging behind the rest of Australia — WA just posted a budget surplus. A surplus!
And businesses are desperate to re-open.
When the Treasurer presented the budget last year, I wrote how .
Now our budget doesn't even have a release date.
Small businesses and sole traders have been pummelled by circumstance.
But you can understand why the State Government is holding back.
Genetic analysis of the second wave of the virus shows it spilled around the suburbs from failures in the hotel quarantine program housing returned international travellers.
Those deadly shortcomings have been trawled through in an inquiry that's examined the top tier of Victoria's political class and ended the careers of former health minister Jenny Mikakos and secretary of the department of premier and cabinet Chris Eccles.
An election will be held in November 2022.
By then we will have a definitive answer on whether the strategy to crawl out of restrictions, amid low case numbers, will hurt politically.
What we do know for now is Victoria has crushed a second wave of the virus. And that's an achievement.
On August 5, the state hit a grim single-day record of 725 new cases.
The deaths of 15 people were announced, including Australia's youngest victim; a man in his 30s.
Last Saturday, the state registered just one case in a 24-hour period.
The number of mystery cases — those with no known origin — in the metropolitan area is at 10 over a 14-day period, far higher than other Australian states and likely to be key in determining when cafes, restaurants and retailers can reopen fully.
The result has exposed the lie of those that have fought restrictions at every turn.
The "Let 'Em Rip" merchants argue the elderly can be protected, the health of the young is unaffected (untrue) and the economy needs to roll on with all doors open and every shopping centre full.
It's the grimmest form of accountancy, like being able to tally a boost in economic output from casket sales but unable to compute why grieving families wouldn't be rushing down to the shops or investing in a holiday.
Let it rip? Let it rip whom exactly?
People working in the frontline of healthcare? Those health problems that make the virus more deadly if they contract it? Impoverished visa holders delivering food?
Opening up before the spread is crushed doesn't make economic sense. Because it ignores a key tenet of human behaviour: confidence.
You could open your venue 24 hours a day but if people don't feel safe and secure in their jobs and income, they won't walk in and they won't spend.
The health impact and the economic pain aren't in competition, they twist together like a vine.
The "We're All In This Together" lockdown early in the year was a shared national need and commitment.
Like seeing work colleagues' bleary eyes after an early-morning Olympic Games or World Cup match in Europe; we didn't have to explain.
But when Victoria's second wave surged, it was pressed as our fault.
Commentators and leaders talked about the "Melbourne problem" or even the "Victorian virus" as though the spread was a moral failing rather than the more terrifying reality: a ruthlessly infectious disease hard to contain.
Other states, even the regions, moved on with their lives.
Being on television, people would ask me why I didn't get a haircut at a barber a couple of tram stops away from the office.
I'd repeatedly explain: hairdressers are closed, no-one is taking trams, and most office workers haven't physically gone into work — at all, and by decree — since mid-March.
Instead, we've needed permits to be outside beyond strict reasons (like getting food or giving care) inside a "bubble" radius of 5 kilometres.
We've gone to the gym on Zoom, work functions on Teams and lost the passion for catch-ups on strained wi-fi connections.
And that's before you add the aching pinpoints of life — babies and funerals — prickling our skin on the other side of the screen.
The vast majority of the 6.5 million Victorians live in Melbourne.
Restrictions in regional areas are marginally lower.
Like I said, it hasn't been a lot of fun.
It's led to people making tough calculations, because the virus has exposed inequalities and tensions that existed before it.
The heightened tension has brought out stark division: people who'd normally have no inkling of how their friends even vote are brawling online about politics and freedoms.
There will be scars.
It's why the song Loose Ends is my favourite of the year.
"Loose Ends is about growing up, loss, and accepting that things don't always go how they do in movies," rapper Illy told triple j when it was played as part of a clip shot for the ABC's The Sound.
"It's kind of a love song about a time that's gone and you can't go back to."
That's been 2020 in Melbourne.
We've almost done what we needed to.
We're just crossing our fingers we don't have to repeat it: living in a time that's gone.