Lift in restrictions: Sydney experts on what we can expect

7 October 2021
Restrictions will relax from next week in NSW
Experts in health, psychology and pandemic modelling comment on what Australians can expect as the nation emerges from pandemic restrictions.

People may be tempted to party like there’s no tomorrow

Professor Maree Teesson is the Director of the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use in the Faculty of Medicine and Health who says many will be looking forward to celebrating the loosening of restrictions. 

“There will be many people planning to party hard and celebrate as we come out of lockdown; the temptation might be to overdo it with alcohol," said Professor Teesson.

“Look out for yourself and your friends, so they stay safe and can enjoy the newfound freedoms.”

Not everyone is looking forward to ‘freedom’ day

Some people may experience mental health problems and social anxiety as restrictions ease. Credit: Pexels

Associate Professor Lexine Stapinski from the Matilda Centre in the Faculty of Medicine and Health warns that people with social anxiety may go through an adjustment period.

“It's important to acknowledge that people with social anxiety may struggle to adjust as we emerge out of lockdown. After months of limited socialising they will likely feel even more nervous and anxious at the thought of interacting face-to-face," said Associate Professor Stapinski. 

Return of ‘normal’ social interactions likely to lift public morale – but some may require continued mental health support

Professor Ian Hickie is the Co-Director of Health and Policy at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre who says that while many will enjoy getting back to 'normal', others may require ongoing support and mental health care.

“As people resume their more normal day-to-day interactions with those outside the family home, many will experience a great deal of pleasure and delight from the resumption of normal social connections," said Professor Hickie.

“For those who have experienced greater psychological injury than others (particularly young people) we need to provide real and ongoing social support, and better access to high quality mental health care.”

Social media highlights disparity between haves and have-nots

During the pandemic, social media highlighted the disparity in amenities and green spaces that residents could access within their 5km radius. Credit: Vincent Rivaud

Clare Davies is a researcher completing her doctorate on how social media prompts and shapes norms and ideas in Australia. She says social media will continue to highlight the disparity between 'haves' and 'have-nots'. 

“During the pandemic, social media – in particular Instagram, Facebook and TikTok – has been a medium for people to display their wealth. We’ve gone from baking bread, expensive restaurant deliveries and Zoom workouts to outdoor picnics and walking trails afforded to those that have the income, access to green spaces and time to participate in these activities," she said.

“People forget that the ability to access a safe park, beach, walking trail or even a boat for “recreational purposes” within 5km of their home is afforded to an elite minority, contributing to the increasing segregation of our communities.”

Cases will surge before Christmas, modelling indicates

Since March 2020, Dr Sheryl Chang and her team have conducted COVID-19 modelling. Their most recent research conducted in late August found cases will surge once restrictions lift.

"Our modelling suggests that new daily cases are likely to surge if we abruptly exit lockdown, reaching tens of thousands of cases per day across Australia by Christmas even with continued testing, tracing, isolation, quarantine and international travel restrictions," said Dr Chang.

"These post-lockdown surges have already been observed in many countries, even with relatively high vaccine coverage, such as Singapore.

“It is important that people maintain social distancing and follow gathering rules, as our healthcare system prepares itself to manage a potentially high number of hospitalisations in the next few months."

Lockdown ending will offer little relief for property seekers

Owning a home in 1950 was an easier feat than it is today.  Credit: The Parsons Collection, National Museum of Australia

Those hoping for a respite from surging real estate prices may be disappointed to read that easing restrictions will do little dampen bid-happy property punters, according to one housing policy expert. 

However, changes to lending rules could have an effect on runaway prices, according to Professor Stephen Whelan from the School of Economics.

“Any impact on the move out of lockdown may be swamped by other developments in relation to property markets. In particular, the lockdown has been (arguably surprisingly) marked by continued growth in property prices, though there is emerging evidence that this might be coming to an end."

“Developments this week around changes to lending rules might take some heat out of the market. Moreover, lifting of lockdown might also encourage potential sellers to add stock to the market, which might also lead to a moderation of prices.”

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