We will all be tested in the times ahead

With Victoria's death toll starting to climb, and cases of infection accelerating, it is time to brace for the coming weeks, and possibly months. There is no smoke, or flames, or graphic footage of a shooting, or a blast. That is what we are accustomed to in times of disaster. With this crisis, we will only confront the dreadful aftermath: crowded hospitals, exhausted medical staff, financial havoc.

While an economic collapse is more familiar, with most people having lived through a downturn, this one will hit harder than most. Victoria's social distancing rules are bringing much of the state's retail and commercial sectors to a grinding halt. The Centrelink lines, shuttered businesses, empty shopping malls and streetscapes are a testament to that.

We need to care for those on the front line.Credit:Jason South

Many Victorians are settling into new habits: home offices, curtailed social lives, exercising at local parks. Humans are social creatures and prone to stress and anxiety, so it's important to find new routines: staying fit, eating well, keeping in touch with friends and family.

Fear will also play a role, sometimes for good, sometimes not so. Fear of catching the virus will hopefully persuade people to stay at home, to play their part in keeping their family safe. But fear also incites the panic buying, frayed tempers, the inclination to look after oneself.

But for every story to shake your head at, there has been a flip side. There are many people willing to look outward, beyond their lives. Looking after the vulnerable, their neighbours, supporting those in need: bears in windows, care packages delivered, sharing of advice to keep young children amused.

These are early days. It is only two weeks since the Melbourne grand prix was cancelled, probably the first real wake-up call for Victorians that normal life was coming to an abrupt halt. Every day has brought a torrent of warnings, new restrictions, tallies of infected and worse. Politicians have opened their doors to medical expertise, helping weigh dire pandemic projections against further economic fallout.

Australian governments are handing out billions of dollars to keep those affected financially above water, worldwide it's in the trillions. Balanced budgets will be left to the history books for some years to come. For the most part, political wrangling has thankfully fallen by the wayside. We should be grateful for the common purpose federal, state and territory governments have shown. As the spread of the virus has accelerated, political leaders have had to turn policy on the run into business as usual.

Much has been done to buffer the economy, with more to come. Much has been done to expand and prepare the health system, with more to come. Now is the time to steel ourselves for the journey ahead. Now is the time for each and every one of us to support those efforts. To stay at home, to stay safe, to stay well.

There will be days that will test every one of us. Many Victorians will be on the front line, caring for the sick, ensuring we have food, keeping us safe. We need to do everything we can to look out for them. Many Victorians have and will lose their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods. Many Victorians will be infected by the virus. Some Victorians will lose loved ones. We need to do everything we can to look out for them all. To care for them, and keep them safe.

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