She said it was eerily quiet when she came to work on Monday, during the five-day lockdown, and her shift dragged.
“It was pretty dead; we didn’t really have any customers,” she said.
“It’s way busier [today]. Even when I got here at 8.30am, there were a lot more people on the street.”
Ms Forde’s manager, Joey Kinerman, speaking from inside Koko Black’s Collins Street store, said he wasn’t worried about masks remaining mandatory inside shops and didn’t believe it would affect business.
“It doesn’t make a difference for us,” he said. “The virus has always been bubbling away before we’ve known [about an outbreak]. It’s always safer for us to have it on all the time, just in case.”
Lynette Agnew, aged in her 50s and wearing a surgical mask, travelled from Northcote into the city to have a look around.
“Because of the lockdown, I wasn’t able to see anyone. I couldn’t get out of my unit for a few days,” she said.
Ms Agnew said her spirits had been lifted by being able to see other people and go shopping. “I’m feeling a lot better,” she said.
Carla Garro was in the CBD looking for work after losing her job as a jeweller at the beginning of the pandemic last year.
“It’s been pretty stressful. It’s been a difficult year,” she said.
However, Ms Garro, aged in her 30s, was feeling positive about returning to the city after the lockdown.
“I’m happy to be here and out and about. I’m not feeling concerned about the virus any more like I was last year,” she said.
Lisa Businovski, a music administrator and photographer, said she still felt a bit cautious travelling to the city out of concern for her elderly relatives.
“Melbourne’s had a different experience, so it’s more community-minded and conscious of one another,” she said.
“The comforting thing is that people are still wearing masks, especially in shops or on public transport, so that makes you feel better.”
Pedestrian data from the City of Melbourne showed a huge jump in foot traffic on Thursday compared to Wednesday, but numbers didn’t quite reach the highs recorded before the snap lockdown last week.
There were 899 pedestrians clocked at the corner of Collins Street and Spencer Street near Southern Cross station between 8am and 9am on Thursday morning, compared to 1117 at the same time and place last Thursday.
During the 1-2pm lunchtime peak in Bourke Street Mall, 907 pedestrians were recorded on Thursday – up 83 per cent from the 154 people who walked through on Wednesday during the last day of the five-day lockdown. 956 people were clocked at the same place and time a week prior, before the “circuit-breaker” was announced.
On Degraves Street, cafes were also half full as tradies and office workers stopped for coffee and lunch throughout the day.
For the owners of the laneway’s Cafe Issus, Nick and Joanne Brewer, mandatory masks, even if only worn inside, meant they served fewer office workers.
“As soon as they said you have to wear masks, they say, ‘We’ll work from home’,” Mr Brewer said.
Mr Brewer said while Melbourne’s suburbs recovered quickly after lockdowns, it took time for people to feel comfortable to come back into the city.
Big Issue vendor Gamal Elkassaby said around midday he was yet to sell a magazine. Before the pandemic, he would have sold up to six in a morning, he said, but he remained upbeat.
“I’m always happy. Why not happy? Money doesn’t matter,” he said.
It’s far from the bustling city of the past, but Melbourne is once again letting out a soft hum.
- With Rachael Dexter
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Chloe Booker is a city reporter for The Age.