KITCHENER -- In the midst of the province’s third lockdown, it’s hard to imagine life without COVID-19 restrictions, but a former Waterloo resident is living that reality in Australia.

“One of my friends from the Netherlands [messaged me], who was like ‘how are you guys allowed to be that close to each other?’ I was like 'everything is normal here, we don’t have any cases,'” said Akil Goodridge.

From packed parties to crowded beaches, life in the Land Down Under has nearly returned to pre-pandemic times. Goodridge, who is currently living in Melbourne, says after a tough initial lockdown, most restrictions have now been lifted there.

“Dancing is allowed. It’s pretty much like, the only time I wear a mask is on public transit, that’s it.”

The country is one of a few to get infection rates under control, with similar scenes also playing out in areas like New Zealand and China.

Goodridge added that while he’s living there on a working-holiday visa, the Australian government will pay him a stipend if he needs to miss work to get tested.

“If I feel ill, say I have a cold or something and I feel sick, they’re like go get tested. Then I can apply for this $450 reimbursement and sit at home until I get contacted if it’s negative or positive.”

He also noted that businesses have QR codes where residents check-in with their phones to facilitate accurate contact tracing.

“Every shop has to have it, everywhere has it,” he explained. ”Then if anybody gets coronavirus there, they contact you.”

With Canada experiencing a less linear fight against the virus, some experts say that they expect reaction to be mixed when restrictions lift here.

“Depends on the type of people, depends on the type of activity. Of course, many people are longing for the life that they had before the pandemic,” said Igor Grossmann, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo.

“I do expect people to be cautious for some time,” added University of Guelph history professor Catherine Carstairs.

Carstairs predicts that some changes to public life may stick around, based on the past.

“The earlier tuberculosis epidemics and the acceptance of germ theory,” said Carstairs. “There was a time which we were very conscious about germs.”

She also says it was during that time that white washrooms were introduced to detect germs and public health launched a campaign against shared public drinking cups.

“I do hope that this pandemic will lead to some insights and some hopes for structurally preparing us better for the future,” said Grossmann.