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Front-line work . . . Haileigh Russell- Wright was nervous during her first contact with a positive Covid-19 patient. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

As Victoria staggers into the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Courier reporter George Clark spoke to ex-South Cantabrians living through it.

Melbourne residents are now under strict lockdown due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Hundreds of thousands of Australians will not be able to work for several weeks.

Under the newly-imposed Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, residents of the state capital will be allowed to shop and exercise only within 5km of their homes.

Only one person from each household will be allowed to shop at a time, and only once a day.

Mother of four Haileigh Russell-Wright, formerly of Temuka, works as a health services assistant at Melbourne’s Austin Health emergency department.

Melbourne’s previous lockdown was so casual that people could go and get a haircut, she said.

Mrs Russell-Wright had faced challenges, from working part-time hours to full-time, if not overtime.

Becoming involved with her first positive case in early March, nervous, she and the duty nurse doubled all of their PPE for safety.

The next two weeks were the most anxious time of her life.

After being Covid-19 free, she was relieved.

Now, in Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown with a restricted curfew, she was hopeful for the future.

“We have adjusted some of our day-to-day living habits,” she said.

“On the first lockdown, I was the only person who went out to the supermarket. Myself, my husband and our oldest were still working, so we colour-zoned our house into red, orange and green sections.”

Red meant entering through the garage and involved potential high risk of contamination.

Gloves sat ready to put on for touching the door’s handle to open it to get to the back of the house and through the laundry.

“Orange was the in-between, a place we could clean ourselves or products.

“We cleaned our hands, our phones, car keys, wallets, took off our outer layers and put them into the washing machine.”

If anything was touched it was wiped down, then it was straight to the shower.

Green meant they were all clean and ready to go.

“It helped the little kids to understand,” she said.

“It was hard for the 2-year-old to learn that she could not hug mum, dad or her sister the moment we got home from work.”

This lockdown was a lot more strict; Mrs Russell-Wright believed she would see many more checkpoints and less traffic on the road.

“We will keep to our side of town but will make an effort to get outside for walks, skateboarding, bike riding and rollerblading for the hour that we are allowed out within the 5km of the house.”

“I say to the kids, we have been blessed with another chance to ground ourselves, reflect, plan, study and think of ways of how we can live the dream of making money while being at home.”

Former Timaruvian Janina-Maree Ryder left South Canterbury in 2006 for a year-long Melbourne experience.

Abrupt change . . . Janina Ryder must wear a compulsory mask or risk receiving a $200 fine. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Fourteen years later, she lives in the inner city suburb of Southbank.

A former Christchurch Casino croupier, she works in Melbourne’s Crown Casino VIP room dealing cards, as well as working in a supervisory role.

Ms Ryder said she was very frustrated by the second outbreak in Victoria.

“So many people did the wrong thing and as a community we have all paid,” she said.

“I thought we were on the other side of it all and life was showing signs of normality.

“My partner had restarted his job as a chef only to stop six weeks later.”

Masks have become compulsory for Ms Ryder, her partner Filippo and his sister Patrizia and the fine for not wearing one is $200.

Patrizia was diagnosed with breast cancer while stuck in Melbourne and had a breast operation, followed by chemotherapy, making the precautions even more essential in their household.

Ms Ryder believed she was very fortunate to still have a job and said being a New Zealand citizen made it hard to access social service payments.

“Fortunately for me, I am a Australian permanent resident but for so many Kiwis over here that is not the case.”

When the crisis was over, she wanted to come home and see her mum; she had missed a 70th birthday celebration due to border closures and quarantining.

“There are so many things I miss about Timaru. Of course, my family and friends, but also the friendliness and kindness in the community.

“Cheap parking meters, bumping into people on Stafford St and being able to drive anywhere across town in 10 minutes.”

While Ms Ryder did not think she would ever return to New Zealand to live, it would always be home.

“Covid-19 has highlighted how far away home really is,” she said.

“I have learnt from this pandemic that certain situations can bring out some of the worst and best of human qualities.

“My motto at the moment is kindness costs nothing but it is contagious.

“We are all in this together.”