Lockdown was a gruelling slog we are all happy to see the end of and get back to the pub, shops, and mum’s house, and fix those awful haircuts.
But as Melbourne finally emerges from its sixth lockdown and NSW approaches two weeks of freedom, there may be a few things we’ll miss.
Everything being shut with all but essential workers confined to their homes wasn’t without its advantages – even if they pale in comparison to leaving the 5km bubble.
So as Australians celebrate returning to work and school, reuniting with friends and family over a meal, and taking a weekend holiday, here’s nine lockdown silver linings they may miss – if only for a few minutes.
Revellers stop to pose for a photo as a jubilant atmosphere washes over Melbourne as the city’s lockdown finally ended
Park almost anywhere at any time
Many local councils, including the City of Sydney, suspended most parking fees and restrictions during lockdown.
Rangers were still on patrol but only issued fines to cars in no-parking zones and other restricted areas, while leaving those in metered spots alone.
With so few commuting to the city during lockdown, there was plenty of space for the remaining essential workers to park without paying a fee.
Being able to easily park for free meant critical staff like nurses and tradies could avoid public transport where the risk of catching Covid was much higher.
Many local councils, including the City of Sydney, suspended most parking fees and restrictions during lockdown (file image)
The relaxed policy also meant many Sydney and Melbourne residents could conveniently park at the shops and near parks for free.
Parking inspectors were immediately out in force across Sydney the day lockdown ended on October 11 issuing fines once again.
No traffic jams
Locals in both cities were confined to 5km bubbles and banned from going out for all but the most essential reasons, so traffic plummeted.
Essential staff still commuting to work got an easy drive through roads usually choked with peak hour traffic, and the supermarket run was was faster than ever.
Traffic volume in Sydney was cut in half from pre-pandemic levels, and was 20 per cent lower than during the first shutdown in March to May 2020.
Transport for NSW daily road traffic movements in Sydney fell 43 per cent compared to the same time in 2019.
Melbourne had a similar story, where requests for driving directions dived 63 per cent and some suburbs had up to 34 per cent less traffic than 2020’s lockdowns.
With lockdown over the roads will be more choked with cars than ever (as sen after lockdown in Sydney ended last year) as most people are not yet ready to use public transport again
However, with lockdown over the roads will be more choked with cars than ever as most people are not yet ready to use public transport again.
Melbourne traffic spiked in May between its fourth and fifth lockdowns with outer suburbs the hardest hit – some up to 74 per cent about pre-pandemic levels.
Sydney’s road congestion was about 15 per cent worse overall in March to June, spiking to 30.8 per cent higher on June 5.
Public transport usage is creeping up since lockdown ended, but experts predict it will be 10 to 20 per cent down for the foreseeable future as passengers fear catching Covid even with 90 per cent vaccinated – making traffic even worse.
Working from home
Millions of Australians have worked from home for most or all of the pandemic, but nearly everyone was banished from workplaces during lockdown.
Many immediately saw the appeal of a commute of less than a minute with no dress code and no boss looking over your shoulder.
Fewer distractions made some employees happier and more productive, along with a familiar and comfortable environment.
Workers with longer commutes were the biggest winners, getting up to 15 hours a week of their life back to do more enjoyable things than sitting in traffic or trains.
After months of lockdown, some workers are tired of the inefficient communication and lack of social interaction, but many are still in love with it.
A survey at the height of Melbourne’s second wave last year found 28 per cent of Australians never want to set foot in the office again and 86 per cent wanting at least one day a week at home.
Half of Australians given a taste of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic don’t want to come back to the office (stock)
More time with family
Another big plus of working from home during lockdown was workers being able to spend more time with their families.
Not only did no commutes give them more spare time, couples were able to see each other when they would usually be at work.
Parents also saw much more of their children when schools were closed, though this came with its own challenges.
Pets were thrilled too as family dogs who got lonely with their owners gone all day were overjoyed – as were their humans who got a new work buddy.
Never needing to have plans
Being banned from seeing friends, going out to eat, or relaxing over a few cocktails is boring and isolating, but at least removes the need to make plans.
For all but the biggest social butterflies, the approaching weekend often prompts anxiety of needing to arrange events and keep busy.
Social media has only heightened the self-imposed pressure to be out and about with friends instead of watching Netflix at home alone.
But in lockdown, binge watching TV is one of the few things you are allowed to do and the needs to arrange anything else to do is gone.
Many Australians reported their relief early in each lockdown at never having to make plans or have anywhere to be at a given moment.
Locals near Sydney’s beaches rejoiced that the 5km limit meant they had the sand and surf all to themselves (Bondi Beach pictured)
The 5km limit suddenly banned millions of people from beaches along Sydney’s coastline
Locals from beachside suburbs are forever complaining that the sand is too packed with ‘blow ins’ and waves crowded with surfers.
The 5km limit suddenly banned millions of people from beaches along Sydney’s coastline and Melbourne waterfronts like St Kilda.
Residents of those areas rejoiced as even though more locals used them for exercise, leading to photos of crowded Bondi and Coogee on particularly sunny weekends, there were fewer overall.
Those on Sydney’s famously insular northern beaches frequently commented on how happy they were to have fewer swimmers around.
However, the flipside to this was families too far from a beach were forced to make do with their local park – and in western Sydney’s hotspots they couldn’t even stay more than an hour a day.
Though Australians will be practicing some degree of social distancing for some time to come, it was definitely better observed in lockdown, like this line when Kmart reopened in Melbourne on Friday
Though Australians will be practicing some degree of social distancing for some time to come, it was definitely better observed in lockdown.
The visceral fear of catching Covid, particularly before widespread vaccination, led to most people avoiding crowds and giving each other a much wider berth.
Many people who disliked getting up close and personal with strangers on trains and in shops will likely hope some of this continues after the pandemic is over.
Living in track pants and activewear with no makeup
With few places to go and mostly only strangers you couldn’t interact with at them, motivation to dress to impress was at record lows.
Grocery shopping or picking up food in little more than pyyjamas (and for some people, actual pyjamas) was never more normal.
Women didn’t feel the need to put on makeup for weeks at a time and men let their facial hair grow out – especially with hairdressers closed.
Saving on dry cleaning bills for suits and other expensive workwear was also more dollars in your pocket.
Deliveroo had free or $1 delivery for all over the recent lockdowns, and has now raised it back to normal prices unless you buy a subscription
Food delivery specials
Lockdown had everyone being stuck at home, unable to eat in restaurants, and many in quarantine or hesitant to leave the house to get takeaway.
To cash in on this, food delivery services put on specials to gain new customers who would hopefully keep ordering after lockdown ended.
Deliveroo had free or $1 delivery for all over the recent lockdowns, and has now raised it back to normal prices unless you buy a subscription.
Uber Eats, MenuLog, Doordash and other competitors launched similar deals to lure in customers, leading to the cheapest delivered food of all time.