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The world’s most locked down city is free but is re-entry anxiety hitting Melbourne? | ticker VIEWS

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Melbourne was once the world’s most liveable city. It appears that Covid-19 agrees, as the city recently ended its sixth lockdown

Victorians have been isolated for 262 days. It’s a grim statistic. In fact, it makes Melbourne the world’s most locked down city.

Unsurprisingly, Victoria is also the state with Australia’s highest number of Covid-19 infections (over 73,100), and deaths (1,005).

During lockdown, people began smiling through their face masks as they greeted passers-by on their daily walks. Cupboards were cleaned, old clothes were thrown out, and alcohol consumption was rife.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put it bluntly, “these are shitty choices”.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews

But on Friday, restaurants popped open their first bottles of champagne in months; and people left their homes outside of curfew hours. These are the things that weren’t allowed just days ago, under the state’s strict stay-at-home orders.

But for some, the mental health toll of being locked down for such a long time is hitting home.

Ticker’s own Dr Kieran Kennedy says re-entry anxiety are “feelings of uncertainty, fear and anxiety around pandemic restrictions lowering”.

Psychiatrists believe re-entry anxiety is characterised by a major period of change.

What can help?

There are a range of techniques that are clinically proven to reduce anxiety during periods of change.

  • acknowledge it
  • take it slow
  • put a simple routine or structure in place
  • plan steps to get back outside
  • look after yourself
  • talk to people
  • recognise the symptoms.

As Melbourne, and the world opens back up, there’s one word that comes to mind for me: balance.

The shadow pandemic

Australia has recently made the shift from a Covid-zero and lockdown mentality, to living with the virus.

Other countries have already adopted this approach, like the United Kingdom, where case numbers are spiking, and smaller nations like Singapore.

“We need to update our mindsets. We should respect Covid-19, but we must not be paralysed by fear.”

SINGAPORE’s PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

Some places are still working towards Covid-zero, including China, which was once the epicentre of the virus.

But as countries begin to emerge from the height of the pandemic, the mental health impacts are also coming to light.

LifeLine—a mental health support service—reported its busiest days in its 57-year history. Calls have reportedly increased by 40 per cent in recent months.

“Just two years ago we were averaging under 2,500 calls a day,” the company’s chair, John Brigden said.

You can almost feel these impacts in Melbourne. From businesses with a ‘for lease’ sticker splashed across their front windows, or for me, the reluctance of jumping straight into a weekend of socialising.

“Today we are regularly seeing more than 3,500—a 40 per cent increase.”

Lifeline chair John Brogden.

Our health experts are telling us that it isn’t the end either.

Professor Adrian Esterman is a former epidemiologist with the World Health Organisation. He says there are a “host of potential viruses” that may cause the next pandemic in our lifetime.

It’s important to acknowledge this, because we are not immune to disasters or change. The world is a complex place.

Importantly, there’s no race to get back to anything. Yes, restrictions have eased but for some, the time to adjust may take a little longer.

I’m not trying to suppress anyone’s feeling of excitement, rather, just shine a light on the perils of re-entry.

Back to reality

As cities bounce back from an incredibly devastating and dark period, I’m having different conversations with my peers.

We’re talking more about our mental health—the harsh toll of being isolated from the things that we love.

But moving back into a ‘normal’ routine—with social and community commitments—isn’t easy.

In fact, research shows that sudden changes can lead to tiredness, stress and irritability—the term known as re-entry anxiety.

Above all, it can lead to unease. We’ve all changed our priorities and daily activities for well over a year, it’s bound to affect our recovery.

Picnics are back, as people around the world celebrate ‘freedom day’.

For me, I wonder what the world will look like in a month, and years to come.

I’m not in any hurry to rush back to ‘normal’ because our entire sense of normality has changed.

I think it’s been nice to strip life back, and appreciate the smaller things—a walk on the beach; dinner at the table; or connecting with an old relative.

However, I appreciate that the world moves fast, and people are keen to suppress these recent memories.

As people make reservations; gather outdoors, and see their friends; it’s time to enjoy these freedoms—at our own pace.

But remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you are struggling—short, or long-term.

If you, or someone you know needs help, please contact your local helpline.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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Taylor Swift’s concert deals spark international trade dispute

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Pop superstar Taylor Swift has found herself at the center of an international trade dispute following exclusive concert arrangements in Singapore.

The controversy has ignited discussions among politicians and trade experts, raising concerns about anti-competitive practices and the economic impact of Swift’s tour.

The dispute stems from negotiations between Swift’s team and Singaporean authorities, resulting in an agreement for the singer to perform exclusively in Singapore, bypassing other Southeast Asian countries.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin alleged that Swift received substantial sums, nearly $US3 million per show, for these exclusive performances, leading to criticism from neighboring nations.

Critics argue that Swift’s exclusive deal with Singapore could be perceived as anti-competitive, potentially violating World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Filipino politicians have condemned the arrangement as a “hurtful betrayal” and have called for diplomatic protests against Singapore.

Defending the deal

Despite the controversy, Singaporean officials, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, defended the deal, highlighting the economic benefits of hosting Swift’s concerts.

Estimates suggest that Swift’s tour has generated significant revenue, with the economic impact in Australia could reach up to $1 billion.

Prime Minister Lee says the decision to host Swift exclusively in Singapore was made through negotiations and did not involve coercive measures.

He asserted that it was ultimately Swift’s prerogative to determine her tour destinations.

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Bitcoin surges closer to all-time high

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Bitcoin surged to new heights on Monday, inching ever closer to its all-time high as the cryptocurrency market continued its bullish momentum following a weekend pause.

The flagship cryptocurrency recorded a remarkable 7.65% increase, reaching a price of $67,608.30, according to data from Coin Metrics.

Earlier in the day, it peaked at $67,977.77, marking its highest level since November 2021 when it achieved its previous all-time high. Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency, also experienced gains, rising by 3.41% and trading near January 2022 highs at $3,588.83.

Both bitcoin and ether are riding the wave of their best week in almost a year, with bitcoin witnessing a 21% surge and ether climbing by 16%.

However, the weekend saw a temporary halt in their ascent as the market absorbed two days of significant outflows from the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), which were offset by inflows into other newly launched bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Market dynamics

Antoni Trenchev, co-founder of crypto exchange Nexo, noted the influence of these new ETFs on market dynamics, suggesting that major movements are now occurring during regular trading days rather than weekends. He emphasized the potential for explosive price action amidst strong demand from these new spot ETFs.

Although bitcoin currently stands around 3% below its intraday record of $68,982.20, it continues to uplift other crypto tokens, particularly meme coins like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu coin, which surged by 14% and 45% respectively.

Analysts interpret this as a sign of renewed interest from retail investors in the crypto market, as meme tokens’ weekly trade volume recently reached its highest level since late 2021.

Meanwhile, the rally in crypto equities varied, with Coinbase and Microstrategy experiencing gains of 11% and 24% respectively, while miners witnessed a downturn.

Companies such as CleanSpark, Cipher Mining, Iris Energy, Marathon Digital, and Riot Platforms faced declines ranging from 5% to 7% as concerns over the upcoming halving event in April weighed on investor sentiment.

Although some analysts foresee potential short-term corrections due to extreme profit margins, long-term investors remain optimistic.

They anticipate sustained upward momentum driven by increasing demand through new U.S. ETFs and tightening supply post-April halving.

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Taxing times: 64% of Aussies think they pay too much tax

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As the cost of living continues to rise, a staggering 64% of Australians are voicing their concern over the amount of tax they pay annually, according to recent research conducted by Finder, Australia’s leading comparison site.

The survey, which polled 1,004 respondents, found that nearly two-thirds of Australians, equating to approximately 13 million individuals, feel burdened by the tax they contribute each financial year.

Of particular note is the sentiment among millennials, with a striking 80% expressing dissatisfaction with their tax contributions. Following closely behind are Gen Xers, with 72% sharing similar sentiments. Comparatively, Gen Z (63%) and baby boomers (39%) exhibit less discontent with their tax obligations.

Sarah Megginson, a personal finance expert at Finder, highlighted the strain that the cost of living imposes on individuals’ financial situations.

“Budgets are stretched thin, with many struggling to make ends meet,” she noted. “While inflation is trending downwards, the financial burden remains heavy for a significant portion of Australians.”

Tax hope

However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

The Australian government has announced plans to implement tax cuts commencing July 1, aimed at providing relief to taxpayers grappling with the escalating cost of living.

According to Finder’s analysis, Australians earning between $45,000 and $135,000 annually stand to benefit from a further tax cut of $804, in addition to previously announced reductions.

This translates to a substantial increase in disposable income, potentially alleviating financial strain for many households.

For instance, an individual earning the median Australian income of $83,200 could expect a tax cut of $1,759 over 12 months, nearly double the previous $955 reduction.

Meanwhile, those earning over $200,000 annually will receive approximately $4,529 under the new stage 3 tax cuts, compared to $9,075 under the previous scheme.

Money back

Megginson emphasized the significance of this financial injection in easing the burden of everyday expenses.

“Those struggling with everyday costs will see more money back in their pocket to help battle expenses,” she remarked.

“If your budget allows, stashing some of this extra cash is a wise move. Every bit helps build a buffer for those unexpected rainy days.”

Megginson advised individuals to explore avenues for potential savings, such as switching service providers to reduce expenses. For those unable to save, she recommended allocating the extra funds towards paying down debt and bills to alleviate financial pressure.

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