Chief Minister Andrew Barr has seen a decade's worth of hard-fought economic development effectively wiped out.
Thousands of Canberrans have lost their jobs or had their income slashed. Businesses have closed overnight; entire industries have ground to a halt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has so rapidly and so drastically upended life as we know it that it is hard to fathom how it happened.
The Canberra Times has this week pieced together the moments that have shaped the ACT government's response to a crisis which Barr believes will forever change the world.
'Shit is about to get real'
The virus, with its dual health and economic threats, was looming large over Australia by the time Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with premiers and chief ministers inside the redeveloped Parramatta Stadium on Friday, March 13.
A day earlier, the federal government had announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package to help stave off a coronavirus-induced recession. The package was stuffed with payments for low-income earners and support for small business owners.
The March meeting of the Council of Australian Governments had for months been set to focus on the horror bushfire season, which devastated large swathes of south-eastern Australia.
The meeting agenda was reordered in the days prior to give precedence to the worsening health emergency.
The situation was moving rapidly and would only accelerate as the hours ticked by.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy briefed the leaders in the morning on the latest coronavirus advice, which was based on the previous days' deliberations between his state and territory counterparts.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe and federal Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy then provided an update on the economic outlook in the face of the virus, modelled on experiences overseas.
Barr said leaders were told the coronavirus would cause far greater financial damage than the bushfires, because it would directly hit the "engine room" of the Australian economy - the capital cities.
"At that point it was cause for concern," Barr said in an interview this week with The Canberra Times.
"But it was not cause for alarm".
That would soon change.
At the same time as the the leaders' meeting, Dr Murphy was dialled into a phone hook-up with the state and territory chief health officers. While it was not known exactly what was said in that meeting, it's now clear that there was a push for a dramatic escalation to the public health response.
Social media was soon abuzz with reports that the federal government would be asked to ban gatherings of 500 or more people to help the slow the spread of COVID-19.
Back in Parramatta, Dr Murphy returned to the meeting to relay the message.
According to Barr's recollection, Morrison's expression of surprise and frustration at what appeared a rapid and dramatic change in the health advice was "palpable". As has now been widely reported, the Prime Minister ordered bureaucrats to leave the room so the leaders could plot the next steps.
I think it was pretty clear that this was going to be a defining moment in our nation's history and, to use a colourful phrase, 'shit was going to get real'.ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr
Barr remembered turning in that moment to new Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who was attending his first leaders' meeting after taking over from Will Hodgman.
"I said to him 'welcome to COAG!' ... you've really walked in at a moment," Barr recalled this week.
"I think it was pretty clear that this was going to be a defining moment in our nation's history and, to use a colourful phrase, 'shit was going to get real'."
Barr said the immediate reaction from those in the room appeared to reflect their individual political backgrounds. As a former health minister, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews quickly moved into a "comfort zone".
Others, such as Barr, had economic backgrounds, meaning their mind turned first to the financial destruction likely to be wrought by restrictions which would be needed to slow the virus' spread.
All of the leaders would have to soon come to terms with the twin heads of the coronavirus monster.
After the meeting, Morrison and the other leaders fronted a media conference to announce a ban on "non-essential" outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people - recommended by the chief health officers - would come into effect from Monday.
Morrison also announced the formation of a national cabinet, comprising himself and state and territory leaders, which would meet weekly to steer Australia's response to the crisis.
Barr's thoughts quickly turned to the ACT response. For weeks he had been alert to the potential threat of the virus, describing it on February 12 as the "biggest economic shock" to threaten the country since the global financial crisis.
But the prospect of public restrictions had changed everything.
Where the damage in the early months of the global outbreak had been largely isolated to Canberra's tourism and higher education sectors as a result of overseas travel bans, local restrictions would cause economy-wide carnage.
It was going to be bad. And it wasn't just going to be bad for a week or two.
An 'unprecedented crisis'
Speaking on ABC radio on the morning of Monday, March 16, Barr's tone was downcast, his language alarming.
"The situation is going to be grim and difficult for months and months and months," he said.
He announced that a public health emergency would be declared later that day for the ACT, which would give the chief health officer the power to restrict public movement and shut down businesses.
Meanwhile, the hours-old mass-gathering ban had already triggered a wave of event cancellations, putting businesses which relied on them for revenue - such as clubs and wedding venues - in financial jeopardy.
The cries for help were immediate. Clubs ACT, the Australian Hotels Association, the Canberra Business Chamber and the Canberra Liberals all called for businesses to receive urgent government support, specifically tax relief.
The ACT government had been non-committal about a stimulus package through the early days of March.
But the landscape had shifted so much over that weekend that treasury officials were now working not on a single stimulus package, but on a multi-stage economic "survival" plan to be rolled out over a number of months.
ACT deputy under-treasurer Stephen Miners said that when choosing the initiatives for the first tranche, the focus was on measures which could be delivered quickly, were easy to administer and, where possible, filled gaps not covered by separate Commonwealth initiatives.
Most importantly, they needed to reach those who needed it most. Coles and Woolworths wouldn't be needing payroll tax exemptions amid the "panic-buying" frenzy.
In normal circumstances, bureaucrats would spend months developing a policy which would be underpinned by data and evidence. There would be time for "full-blooded" consultation with industry groups. Such procedural luxuries couldn't be afforded during the emergency.
The economic crisis was worsening all the time. The national cabinet banned indoor gatherings of 100 people or more on the Wednesday, driving another dagger into the heart of the ailing hospitality sector.
Treasury, along with other government directorates, held video conferences with key stakeholders throughout the week to seek feedback and hear concerns as they fashioned the first stage of the response.
As every other state and territory unveiled their own financial support packages, some worried Barr's team was acting too slowly.
It wasn't until late on the afternoon of Thursday, March 19, that the package was finalised. Speaking to The Canberra Times later that night, Barr ratcheted up the rhetoric once more.
"This is this generation's equivalent of the Second World War, this is wartime stuff," he said.
The $137 million package, which was broadly well-received upon its release on Friday, included a $150 rate rebate to residential property owners, a freeze of government rates and charges and $250 in rental support for public housing tenants.
Barr was at pains to emphasize that there would be more to come.
The ACT government could have held off on announcing anything until it was in a position to announce everything - but the Chief Minister knew that wouldn't fly.
Miners had told his team to take some time to relax on the Friday afternoon.
"None of them did, of course," he told The Canberra Times earlier this week.
"By the Saturday, we were already working on stage two."
A 'very sad day'
The previous week proved to be the storm before the category 5 cyclone.
On the morning of Sunday, March 22, Morrison and federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unveiled a further $66 billion in federal government spending to cushion the economy from the unfolding crisis.
The massive announcement was somewhat overshadowed by fractures which appeared to form within the national cabinet. Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian went public on Sunday afternoon with their intention to shut down "non-essential" services in their states over the following 48 hours.
The ACT fell into line, also announcing that schools would go "student-free" from Tuesday until the school holidays.
Morrison emerged from the fog late on Sunday night to announce that bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas would be forced to shut in another escalation of the fight against the virus.
The closures put thousands of people out of work immediately. Long lines formed outside Centrelink offices on Monday morning, including on Lonsdale Street in Braddon.
"A very sad day," one hospitality industry leader told The Canberra Times later that night.
"Emotionally draining for everyone. Staff, publicans, suppliers. Not sure how we're going to make it all through. We'll be sure to give it a good nudge though."
By mid-week, almost all of Miners' Treasury team were working from home. The second support package would be pieced together through Zoom meetings, hundreds of phone calls, and very, very long days and nights.
The task at hand was constantly changing; every national cabinet decision to combat the virus had immediate and direct consequences for the economic outlook.
Australia's borders were shut. The numbers changed. Social gatherings were banned. The numbers changed again.
Barr's days became a blur of meetings: the national cabinet, Australian treasurers and his own cabinet. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman were steering the health response, holding daily press conferences as the number of new local cases started to mount.
Miners spent 11 hours on the phone on a single day, bouncing between various ministers' offices and directorates, his boss and those working underneath him. The government's infrastructure agency, Major Projects Canberra, was holding 30-minute daily meetings with the Property Council and Master Builders Association, among others.
The public service was, in relative terms, operating at light speed. Processes that typically took weeks, if not months, to complete were being rushed through in record time. As just one example, Access Canberra approved 35 applications for selling takeaway alcohol less than a day after the scheme was set up.
Miners said bureaucrats made sure that proper processes were followed, despite the extraordinary circumstances.
This was taxpayers' money, after all. If the ACT Revenue Commissioner said the spending couldn't be done, Miners said his team had to find another way - and quickly.
As the second package started to take shape, Morrison and Frydenberg fired their biggest shot yet on Monday, March 30 - a gargantuan $130 billion wage subsidy scheme aimed at saving 6 million Australian jobs over the next six months.
While the ACT also wanted to provide more support for struggling households and businesses - particularly renters and tenants - it needed to balance that spending with funds to bolster the territory's hospital capacity so it could cope with a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.
The territory's economic priorities had changed. Grand and long-held visions of a new sports stadium and convention centre seemed a "long way away", Barr conceded.
The package was unveiled on Thursday, April 2, during the lunch break of the ACT Legislative Assembly's only sitting day of the week.
The bulk of the $214 million package, some $126 million, was dedicated to health, including $23 million for a pop-up emergency department to treat coronavirus patients. There was also financial incentives for residential and commercial landlords to reduce rents for tenants struggling amid the pandemic.
The Real Estate Institute of the ACT expressed concern that the residential rate rebate scheme was asking too much of landlords, prompting Barr to accuse the group of being "out of touch". It was a rare public spat in a period of bipartisanship.
What the minor flashpoint did reveal was that while the government had consulted openly and extensively with some groups, it hadn't done so with all.
The Assembly, sitting with fewer MLAs and in a condensed format, rushed through emergency bills to allow the government to respond to the pandemic. The opposition did successfully push for the establishment of a committee to scrutinise the territory's response to the health and economic crises.
"These are extraordinary times, which require extraordinary power and therefore extraordinary scrutiny," Opposition Leader Alistair Coe told the chamber.
For its part, the opposition has done little, if any, opposing throughout the emergency.
The opposition's health team, Vicki Dunne and Giulia Jones, have received regular briefings from government officials about the virus. Some ministers have given their political adversaries advance notice of particular announcements, and even provided advice on how to respond to questions from constituents.
Other ministerial offices haven't been so forthcoming.
Coe, who has spent much of the past month visiting and speaking with struggling businesses, declined to name names.
"We're not interested in politics at this time," he said.
"We will keep advocating for Canberra, for families and business and do whatever we can to support the community and government to get through this tough time."
The world will never be the same
When Barr spoke to The Canberra Times on the morning of Wednesday, April 8, he said he had had few opportunities to reflect on the events of the past month.
When pushed, his thoughts, as they did inside Parramatta Stadium on that fateful Friday, turned to the economy.
"It is obviously clear to me that a decade's worth of economic development appears to have been wiped out in the space of several weeks," he said.
As the territory's tourism minister since 2006, Barr said he had taken great pride in helping to grow the sector into what it was before the coronavirus hit - a $2.5 billion industry which employed 20,000 people. He'd worked hard to lure international flights to Canberra. They have now been suspended because of the border closures.
"I'm still coming to terms with it," he said.
Barr said the international tourism market would take years to recover, and anticipates there will be strict quarantine rules in place for the foreseeable future.
"The idea that we will have international travel next year seems a bit fanciful at the moment, unless there is a vaccine," he said.
A vaccine is, as Barr and others have repeated almost daily for the past month, the only clear path out of the pandemic.
But as the number of new cases continues to decline - as the "curve" not only flattens, but starts to edge downward - leaders are starting to prepare for a gradual winding back of restrictions, and the long road of economic recovery.
Barr said the ACT's third package, which could be announced as soon as late April, would have an eye to the bounce back. He said funding could be brought forward for more small-scale infrastructure projects, which would help to keep the local construction sector - which hasn't been shut down - ticking over.
Having studied Australian economic history at ANU in the 1990s, Barr knows there is life after a crisis.
He's confident the pillars of the ACT's recent economic prosperity - low unemployment, relatively high household income and rapid population growth - will set the foundation for a strong recovery.
But it won't happen quickly. Territory taxpayers will be paying for the coronavirus long after they are eventually freed from isolation.
Miners said the key to the recovery was economic growth - the faster businesses spring back to life, the quicker the debt can be paid off.
Even when the economy recovers, Barr said he is "utterly convinced" the world will be forever changed by COVID-19. Businesses will be more attuned to risk, he said, and therefore more likely to diversify their operations.
But there are silver linings to the crisis.
Everyday experiences taken for granted in a world prior to social distancing, such as conversations with friends and family, are now cherished. Despite his hectic schedule, Barr said he is finally making progress on the "100 or so" projects waiting to be done around the house.
"The pace of life has slowed a little for many, and I think that isn't going to hurt some people," he said.
"Not forever, things will go back to normal. But I think for some who live very frantic and busy lives, this is a moment just to chill a little.
"I think we should try and make the most it."