Pubs Are Reopening... But Will People Go?
It's still not quite time to get on the beers -- but pubs and restaurants are opening, so the question is, are you ready to leave isolation to taste some post-COVID freedom?
Yes, it may have been months of track pants, working from bed and Zoom calls where you're only properly dressed from the waist up -- but this weekend marks the first possibility in weeks to sit at a table, order a meal and enjoy a schooner fresh from the tap in a proper glass.
In NSW, people will be allowed to have five visitors at their homes, gather outdoors in groups of 10, and eat at a restaurant or bar with 10 patrons. Outdoor gyms and pools will also open once again.
In Queensland, the pubs will also open, but in Victoria they will remain shut -- with Premier Daniel Andrews fielding questions at multiple press conferences about when people in his state can "get back on the beers", echoing his now-viral ruling that Victorians shouldn't be doing that.
Across the country, the first major relaxation of restrictions presents a choice - to pub, or not to pub?
Many people will choose to voluntarily keep social distancing, avoiding public areas as much as possible for some weeks to come. But for those who will be getting back amongst it this weekend, the question remains -- after weeks in lockdown, do you still have nine friends who you'd like to invite to the park?
Have you gotten so used to Netflix and takeaway on the couch that the idea of a pub schnitzel just isn't doing it for you just yet?
Are you finding those video chat calls much more convenient than going out for a night on the town or a coffee at the local cafe (just think of all the money you're saving on taxis, for a start)?
Have you spent so much time in comfy hoodies and pyjamas that you're left looking at your clothes in utter confusion, having forgotten how to put together an outfit appropriate for the outside world?
It will be some time before we're back on nightclub dancefloors or music venue moshpits, but even now, people are being told to stay safe and be smart.
There also are fears of a 'second wave' of infections, even as Australia's new coronavirus cases dwindle to near zero.
As for pubs, deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth was asked on Thursday whether intoxication can make social distancing trickier.
"It does and so that needs to be taken into consideration," he warned.
Coatsworth said "a 10 person limit is satisfactory" to stay safe in pubs and restaurants, but also had words of advice for people planning to have small gatherings at home -- even though "everybody in Australia wants to increase their social contact".
"If you are feeling at all unwell with a cough or a cold, ring up and apologise, defer it to next weekend, it's not worth it," he said.
"You can ask your friends if anyone in their family is unwell, make sure you perform excellent hand hygiene and when you go to your mate's place, even if it is your best mate you haven't seen them for weeks, don't give them a hug."
"We have to change those habits."
While many Aussies might be emerging from corona cocoons, rubbing their eyes at the sun they haven't seen for a while, some are quite content to stay inside a little longer.
"We're not going anywhere any time soon. Might have friends over but we're not going out," Claire, from NSW, told me when I put out a call on Twitter for people's weekend plans now restrictions have eased.
"Absolutely 100 percent will not be going out. We see what happens when people get one taste of 'freedom'," said Yolanda, from Paddington, citing the crowded beaches and shopping centres we've seen across the country in recent weeks.
Several Aussies said they were "nervous" about what effect the relaxations may have.
"People were very conscious of what needed to be done to minimise the impact, but with the easing of restrictions, complacency seems to be the new order," Diane, from Perth, said.
"I think everything will be crowded and awful for a while, and people will be complacent about social distancing," another woman, Kara, from Sydney, commented.
"I am doing what I’ve done for the past two months and staying home unless I need to get essentials or go to work. Only new exemption for me will be walking the dog with a friend whilst remaining socially distant," Grant, from Sydney, replied.
Others said they were relieved to have a chance to enjoy some small slice of a pre-pandemic world.
"It's Ramadan so I will definitely be going to a restaurant this weekend. Simply be smart and stick to the rules and you won't have any problems," said Mohammed from Sydney.
"I have a bottomless rosè brunch booked with nine girlfriends in Bondi. I think I’ll be crying happy tears," Charlotte, from Sydney, said.
"In Victoria, I'm just excited to take the kids for a day trip on the weekend. Maybe we'll do a picnic somewhere," added Melbourne woman Cassandra.