Australia Is Returning to Normal. But Should Everything?

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She’s right, of course. Cafes are by nature social places. But I can’t help but miss, just a little bit, the permission that the digital ordering system gave me to be a complete introvert.

The whole thing is so inconsequential I almost don’t want to mention it. The pandemic has irrevocably knocked our lives off course. Industries like hospitality and tourism could take years to recover, the mental toll of the past year is still hard to quantify, and thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas.

But as the vaccine rollout speeds up and parts of Australia shake off the last dregs of coronavirus restrictions (for the first time since the start of the pandemic, New South Wales has lifted all restrictions on dancing!), the question of how much we want to return to normal has been on my mind.

From 6 p.m. tonight, the Victoria government will lift a regulation that had required employers to let employees work remotely during the pandemic, meaning workers can essentially be forced back to the office. Experts are anticipating clashes between employees acclimatized to the conveniences of working from home and workplaces hopeful about a return to business as usual.

And in just under a week, the federal government’s unemployment coronavirus supplement will run out. When it was introduced in April, it pushed the welfare payment above the poverty line for the first time in two decades. Recipients reveled in being able to go to the dentist, do maintenance work they’d been delaying, and afford equipment that helped them find work.

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