COVID-19 is a virus that knows no physical boundaries, does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender or economic status, is highly infectious, has an above-average reproduction rate, makes people ill, makes recovery hard and long-term and can kill people who have it. That is the epidemiological reality of coronavirus.

The reality for Australians is that it has changed almost every part of our daily lives since late February.

There were precursors to COVID- 19. They included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), in 2003, Influenza A or Swine Flu, in 2009 and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), in 2012.

But, Australia was largely immuned from these and has not experienced anything like COVID-19 since that other highly-infectious respiratory disease, the Spanish flu, of 1919.

The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics states the fledgling Australian federation had a population of 5 million, in 1918. According to Sydney University, the Spanish flu reached Australia by 1919. About a third of all Australians were infected and nearly 15,000 people were dead in less than a year. (For further information go to, Dr Peter Hobbins, “Centenary of Spanish flu pandemic in Australia”, 21 January 2019,

Coronavirus advice, directives, rules, restrictions, lockdowns and state border closures since late February, have changed the way Australians look, live, work, interact and spend. The State of Disaster declaration and the introduction of stage four restrictions in Melbourne, last week, has altered life further, making most Melburnians prisoners in their own home and suburb. For them, there is the monotonous sites and sounds of their home between the curfew hours of 8pm to 5am, and the predictability of what they see and hear while travelling only for local food shopping and limited exercise. Those offering care and employed in essential services have marginally more variety in what they look and listen to everyday.

Below is a list of the sites and sounds of living with coronavirus, from late February to before the recent hard lockdown, in Melbourne.

The sites of COVID-19

There are signs telling us not to enter a building if we have a fever, chills, sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or loss of sense of smell. There are signs directing us to stand here, wait there, don a mask, use this sanitiser, put on these gloves and get tested here. The Victorian Government briefings are conducted against the backdrop of its slogan, “Staying apart keeps us together”. The government’s electric signs at major intersections, freeways and the city centre, tell people to get tested, to “stay safe”, to “stay home” and finally to “go home”. A sign at Federation Square told us that “Heroes Wear Masks”.

Shopfront windows are taken over with signs outlining the permitted maximum number of in-store customers, reduced operating hours, suspended trading, instructions to ring a mobile number or access a website for service, announcements the business has moved or declarations that they have closed permanently.

READ MORE: Empty streets as lockdown 2.0 goes into effect in Victoria

Whether it is stage three restrictions or just being coronavirus cautious, you can’t escape seeing a queue or being part of one. There are queues everywhere.

People are queued up outside bakeries and inside cafes, outside banks and inside post offices, outside telephone providers and inside IT stores, outside fresh-food markets and inside supermarkets at checkout aisles. Sometimes, there is a queue to get into the official queue.

For most of us, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was something we only saw actors wear in movies or real emergency workers wear roadside attending accidents. Now they are worn by health workers, in white tents set up as makeshift COVID-19 testing facilities in our shopping centres, schools and on the grounds of large public housing estates.

The great equaliser, PPE has transcended race, colour, poor countries and rich nations and has become a “universal national costume”. (PPE includes surgical masks, P2/N95 respirators, gloves, goggles, glasses, face shields, gowns and aprons. For further information on who should wear and how to wear PPE , go to then search “PPE”.)

You know something’s up when there are more police than ever walking in your street or in cars patrolling your suburb.

You know you need to be concerned when police are out in force on highways, at checkpoints, at borders and asking citizens for travel and work permits.

You know it’s serious when police in dark blue uniforms and the army in camouflage gear are on your highways, in your street, and knocking on your neighbour’s door to see if they are isolating.

ADF personnel and Victorian police officers are seen patrolling Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne. Photo: AAP

Like much of our coronavirus society, images on our television and computer screens are not always synchronised.

In these COVID-19 times, it’s common to see people being interviewed and their mouths moving one way and the delayed audio not matching what is being said. It makes for interesting viewing, particularly when Skyped interviewees get off their chairs, take off their ear pieces and disappear into their living rooms while the audio of what they just said keeps running.

Who knew until COVID-19 that so many people throughout the world lived in such beautiful houses?

Many being interviewed via Skype sit in houses with new furnishings. They sit on a new beautiful couch, in a room bathed in natural light, hosting interesting prints and displaying fresh cut flowers; their houses are spotless. The intellectual types are always found talking in front of packed bookshelves.

READ MORE: 10 things to do in Victoria Lockdown II

Greek migrants who had never had their names mentioned in the mainstream Australian media, let alone had their photos included, are there and everywhere else.

Their pictures have been plastered in the English-language metropolitan daily newspapers, on our television screens, and on the internet because they were nursing home residents who died because of the pandemic. They continue to appear in the media.

Most of them also appeared in Neos Kosmos for the first time in their lives for the saddest reasons.

Thursday’s Greek-language edition of Neos Kosmos is the source Melbourne’s Greek community go to for the death, funeral and memorial notices. Last month, the number of death notices were overwhelming. On Thursday 30 July alone, when the state recorded Australia’s then highest daily number of new coronavirus cases at 723, the paper’s front page notified readers that 18 Greeks of Melbourne had died from the virus. The paper begged for mercy with the headline “Sto Eleos tou Theou” (For the mercy of God).

Inside the broadsheet newspaper, the death notices with corresponding pictures each two columns wide, ran across more than three pages. Of the 22 death notices, three were St Basil’s aged care residents.

COVID-19 restrictions have meant empty city centres, empty schools, empty office blocks, empty malls, empty shopping strips, empty suburban streets, empty trains, empty buses, empty trams.

This emptiness has led to packed supermarkets, packed fresh food shops, and packed exercise parks.


“Echo” is a Greek word for the sound that comes back to you because it reverberates off a surface. It is derived from the mythical mountain nymph, Echo, who pined away for love.

But, with coronavirus restrictions, echoes are increasingly heard in unusual places. There are echoes in radio and televised Greek Orthodox church services as the soundwaves from the priest’s voice and cantor’s chants reflect off the brick walls and the parquetry, concrete or tiled floor of the empty churches. Only icons, rows of wooden pews and a handful of people are left to absorb the sound.

In Melbourne, Community television station Channel 31 broadcasts church services, on Sunday, between 9.30 and 11am. Pay TV has direct church services from Greece.

There are echoes too, in our houses. They are in the Skype interviews on our television and radio news and current affairs bulletins we hear in our family room. They are in our lounge room with private telecommunication videoing Zoom conversations with family, relatives and friends.

Sometimes, the echo is superseded by the nasal sounding voice that sounds like it’s being beamed through a cylinder. Sometimes “Zoomed” work colleagues sound like their voice has too much bass.

READ MORE: From Greek heyday to COVID-19: a business leader reflects

Since mandatory mask wearing, Melburnians have found it harder to understand each other. The mask makes voices sound muffled. Increasingly, people are being asked to repeat themselves. “I beg your pardon, would you repeat that?”, “Hey, what was that?” and “What’s that you say?” are increasingly part of our daily vernacular.

Television and radio using recordings of fans cheering to accompany their live sports broadcasts would have been sacrilegious six months ago. Coronavirus had made it a prerequisite.

This coronavirus world is for the birds, literally. COVID-19 restrictions has seen human travel and movement decrease so much, and the cacophony of modern life diminish so markedly, that the birds have come out to sing about it.

Birds are singing louder, longer and in greater numbers in our cities than six months ago when the virus started.

The slow ticking sound at traffic lights is designed to help the blind and visually-impaired locate the lights and, therefore, a pedestrian crossing: the traffic lights rapid ticking sound tells them when to cross. You know you are in coronavirus lockdown when the only noise you can hear in the street is the slow ticking of traffic lights.

More often than is comfortable, there is the sound of silence. There can be silence in your house, silence walking in suburban streets and silence waiting at stop signs in your car. It makes you feel like you are the only person in the world.