August 12 in Canberra started off like any other day.
Maskless people went to their gym classes, drove to the office and grabbed their morning coffees.
Canberrans were enjoying freedoms, relishing in a capital that had escaped a local outbreak of COVID-19.
But there was a sense of foreboding. Many thought we were on borrowed time.
Only three hours up the road Sydney's COVID crisis was worsening every day. The virus had spread to parts of regional NSW.
It was only going to be a matter of time.
Sure enough, shortly after 10am the news Canberrans had dreaded started to filter around town.
Canberra is a small place, once a case was discovered it was not going to take long for everybody to find out.
By 11.30am, when Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed the lockdown most of the city already knew and people had rushed to supermarkets to stock up.
There was hope that it would be a short, sharp lockdown. People believed the ACT could follow the examples of states such as Queensland and Western Australia, which had previously locked down for five days or a week and there had been no community transmission.
Mr Barr even hoped this was the case when he announced the lockdown.
"We have seen that a short and immediate lockdown limits the potential spread of the virus, and is the best path to avoiding longer and more damaging lockdowns," he said.
But the virus had already seeded in Canberra and was spreading rapidly around the city.
One month later, the ACT has recorded 478 cases and is into its fifth week of lockdown.
What's happened since?
As the city reported its first locally acquired case in a year, the ACT's contact tracers and testing sites grappled with overwhelming demand.
Thousands of close contacts were identified, as schools, bars and supermarkets became exposure sites.
In the initial days of the outbreak, case numbers didn't appear too bad. Four days in, the ACT had only recorded nine cases.
But on day five there were 19 new COVID-19 cases announced on one day, which triggered a two-week extension to the lockdown.
That short, sharp lockdown became a pipe dream.
Canberra would continue to record COVID cases every day.
But unlike other states, daily case numbers in the ACT's outbreak have not followed a discernible trend. There has been no rapid increase or rapid decrease. Case numbers have mostly fluctuated between the teens and twenties.
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While authorities have reaffirmed the longer term trend showed case numbers were slowly declining, it was not enough to end the lockdown.
As a result, the ACT's lockdown was extended again on August 31. The new end date became September 17.
Mr Barr is expected to announce what the road ahead will be for the ACT on Tuesday.
He has already warned it will be a difficult spring and the territory would only ease restrictions very gradually until key vaccination targets are met.
Based on previous comments from Mr Barr, it appears unlikely that the lockdown will be significantly eased on Friday. There are still cases infectious in the community and there are still cases with an unknown source - the Chief Minister has maintained he would like to see a run of days where both are zero.
Even when restrictions are eased, the city is still months away from what life was like on that morning of August 12.
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