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Photo taken on Aug. 3, 2020 shows a street in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Bai Xue/Xinhua)

"Before the pandemic we were doing shows, we were going to the studio a lot, we were also playing at house parties and things like that -- everything was going quite well. We had a lot of plans," musician and rapper Conor Ewing-Crellin in Melbourne said.

COVID-19 quickly put an end to those plans, with most live music venues and even recording studios, deemed too high risk.

SYDNEY, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The city of Melbourne has long attracted Australians with big dreams, drawn to find like-minded people and the chance to be part of the country's most highly regarded music, food and art scenes.

From its progressive suburban enclaves to graffiti-sprawled urban alleyways, Melbourne has for decades acted as both the Los Angeles and New York of Australia.

Now every night from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., residents are forced into their homes, with only essential and emergency workers permitted to be outside, in what is Australia's first ever blanket curfew of a major city.

It follows a mass outbreak of COVID-19 in the metropolitan, which since late June has steadily racked up to over 7,500 active cases, peaking on Wednesday with 725 new infections and 15 deaths.

The iconic Flinders Street Station during a COVID-19 curfew in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 3, 2020. (Photo by Bai Xue/Xinhua)

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Melbourne was exactly where musician and rapper Conor Ewing-Crellin wanted to be. A place where he and fellow collaborators could build on the burgeoning success of their band DrankWater.

Ewing-Crellin told Xinhua that the pandemic had disrupted almost every aspect of being a performer and placed his group's promising career on hold.

"Before the pandemic we were doing shows, we were going to the studio a lot, we were also playing at house parties and things like that -- everything was going quite well. We had a lot of plans," Ewing-Crellin said.

COVID-19 quickly put an end to those plans, with most live music venues and even recording studios, deemed too high risk.

In early June, with Australia's first wave of infections largely receded, Melbourne's clubs and bars began to reopen their doors to the public, albeit under strict guidelines, and at that time it looked as if even live music might have a chance of returning.

Less than a month later, surging case numbers had dashed those plans and Melbourne performers resigned themselves to hope for a return to the stage sometime before the end of 2020.

It's been months since DrankWater played in front of an audience and Ewing-Crellin said he cannot wait to get back out there. However in the meantime, he is looking at the positives and the opportunity for reflection during the prolonged hours of lockdown.

"It's been really good at the same time, we've been able to readjust our focus, critique our vision and work on our craft," he said.

"We're also going to try and release as much music as we can during this period to give people some distractions and enjoyment."

A sanitation worker cleans a facility in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug. 3, 2020. (Photo by Bai Xue/Xinhua)

Artists are not the only ones in Melbourne's cultural tapestry to be feeling the squeeze. The city is also home to many of Australia's world-class universities, which have seen campuses gutted by the loss of their significant international students.

As part of cost-saving measures, Jeremy Meyn lost his IT job at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), forcing him to take a lesser position helping out with his father's small business.

Meyn told Xinhua that he blamed people not following the rules for the city's backslide, and hoped stricter lockdowns and tougher penalties will start to bring the case numbers down.

"I'm kind of disappointed in the people that get fines and things like that because they're putting the whole of Victoria at risk, and the whole of Australia I guess," he said.

Meyn said life was difficult but manageable under the lockdown, in which residents could still go to work in essential industries, buy their groceries and get one hour of outdoor exercise a day.

Photo taken on Aug. 3, 2020 shows a street during a COVID-19 curfew in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Bai Xue/Xinhua)

Of course, being Australian, the other concern for many people is the presence of sport in their lives, and thankfully for Melbourne, which is also the unofficial home of Australian Rules Football, people could still tune in to watch a game from home.

While none of the teams were able to play in Melbourne due to the virus, games were beamed in from interstate, offering at least one integral thread of the cultural fabric of the city -- and a taste of normality in the world.

"As a family we can all sit down and watch the footy, so that's been really good," Meyn said. "If we didn't have the footy that would be a disaster." ■

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