Footy and restaurants still off limits in new COVID normal
Packed footy crowds and restaurant dining could be transformed for the next decade by COVID. Masks will also become a feature of life as Melbourne adapts to our ‘new normal’. Here’s some of what could change.
Watching footy at the MCG and dining in Melbourne restaurants could be changed for a decade by COVID-19.
Expect to see more than 15 per cent of the crowd at next year’s Grand Final wearing masks; a prospect Victorians could not have dreamt of just six months ago.
And prepare to dine differently in Melbourne’s popular cafes and restaurants than you did pre-pandemic.
Leading demographer Bernard Salt said masks were set to become a feature of Victorian – and particularly Melbourne – life, for perhaps the next ten years.
But that’s not all that would be different in the way Victorians lived in the post-COVID world, with some changes arguably for the better.
For those who hated having their conversations overheard while dining and rubbing shoulders with other customers, the end of ‘close’ and shared restaurant tables would be music to their ears.
“Close tables at chic inner city cafes and restaurants will disappear; cafes will spread instead, onto the footpath and into laneways,” Mr Salt said.
“And I think Melburnians, being the foodies they are, might lead Australia in insisting that those preparing food not only wear a hair net or chef’s hat but also a face mask.”
Like the millennium drought left Melbourne homes with legacy water tanks and drip watering systems, the coronavirus pandemic would see veggie patches retained well into the future, as Victorians continued to embrace homegrown produce and self-sufficiency, he said.
Many Melburnians had also reaped the benefits of regular, structured exercise and were set to maintain their COVID routines of a daily walk, ride or run; making better use of bike paths and parks than ever before, Mr Salt said.
Far more people would work from home after the lockdown than before, with home offices being expanded to have the potential to accommodate several workers.
And comfort clothing (at least from the waist down) would also hang around, because “we’ll be Zooming for a while yet”, he cautioned.
Coughing and sneezing in public without covering your mouth would become one of the most frowned-upon ‘offences’, Mr Salt said.
“That will be regarded as a highly offensive act in the 2020s, almost akin to lighting a cigarette in a restaurant or cafe during the 2010s,” he said.
But Victoria could, and would, bounce back from COVID if every person played their part and a strong campaign was launched encouraging residents to “work hard, volunteer, take a business risk, take on an apprentice, pick up rubbish or just encourage someone who’s ‘having a go’,” Mr Salt said.
“We need a public awareness program to focus our collective efforts into rebuilding businesses, into contributing to prosperity, into making our community more connected, more caring and, yes, more prosperous.”
Every medium-sized or even small business that could afford to put on one new employee, should do so, he said.
Businesses which had “taken hits” to help their workers – and workers which had accepted big changes and less income, to help keep their employers afloat – should now be celebrated, Mr Salt said.
As should those which had imaginatively adapted and changed their operating models, to survive.
‘Made in Melbourne’ and ‘Made in Victoria’ stickers should be produced and slapped on all locally-made products, to encourage patriotism and supercharge the state’s revival, he said.
“Now is not the time to snipe from the shadows, now is the time to step up, put
yourself forward, and ask what you can do to help make Melbourne marvellous
again,” Mr Salt said.
“Ask not what Melbourne can do for you, but what you can do for Melbourne.
“This concept of self-sacrifice resonated deeply with the depression and war generations … I think this is precisely what Melbourne and Victoria needs right now.”
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