Skip to main content

Letter from... Melbourne

09 April 2020

By Sophie Mitchell, Associate Partner, Newgate Australia

Working in strategic communications, our days tend to be punctuated by headlines. From late January, concerns about the spread of coronavirus in China dominated those headlines.

China is a near neighbour, a key trading partner and a strong source of business investment and tourism in both Australia and in Victoria. On 25 January, a Chinese-Australian, recently returned from China, became Australia’s first coronavirus patient.

In the months since, the federal government has convened a National Cabinet, comprising state and federal leaders who meet regularly to share intelligence and make decisions in the national interest.

To reduce transmission of the virus, as well as closing our national borders to all but returning citizens, three states (Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland) have closed their state borders and two others (Tasmania and Northern Territory) have restricted travel and require travellers to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Strict isolation and social distancing policies have also been implemented, albeit with slight variances from state to state. While these policies are likely to be tested over the up-coming four-day Easter holiday, traditionally a time of travel and family gatherings, they appear to be making an impact. Australia’s infection rate has eased slightly, with only 112 new cases reported yesterday, bringing our overall to 5,800. We are hopeful this downward trend continues.

Over the last month, we’ve seen significant changes in our work practices and behaviours. Where a month ago, there were water-cooler conversations over café-bought sandwiches about planned Easter holiday trips, today, we all work from home, our cafes are closed, and our work and our social interactions have been replaced with Zoom meetings.

Our team spirit, however, remains strong and we’re holding weekly online team lunches and a popular weekly zoom trivia session (BYO wine and cheese). In the works is a team Coronavirus playlist and a weekly coronavirus meme competition. We are finding that isolation is the mother of creativity, if not of invention.

Today marks three weeks since I decamped from the office and began working from home – with no sign that it is going to end soon. In three months time, it will be mid-winter in Australia and it is difficult to estimate the impact coronavirus’ will then have our daily lives, but we’re sure we’ll have a cracking Newgate Melbourne Coronavirus Playlist by then.