32 Things You Forgot Happened Right Before COVID-19 Changed Everything

    Remember when ScoMo ducked off to Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires?

    Our American colleagues compiled a list where they revisited the weeks and months before the pandemic — aka when things last felt "normal" — which was two years ago, if you can comprehend that.

    Inspired by that, we thought we would take a look at what was happening in Australia two years ago, both in the lead up to the pandemic and in the early days of COVID-19 when masks, social distancing, and PCR tests were still a new thing.

    1. In September 2019, Aussie icon Flume made international headlines after a video of him — wait for it — eating his girlfriend's ass at Burning Man went viral.

    2. In October 2019, climbing Uluru — which has significant spiritual significance to the Anangu peoples — was banned by the authority of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board, who had voted to close the site in 2017.

    3. The biggest news story that dominated Australian headlines between November 2019–January 2020 was the Black Summer bushfires. In total, 24 million hectares of land was burnt, 3,000 homes were destroyed, 28 people died, and 3 billion animals were either killed or displaced.

    4. During this time, Sydneysiders woke up to a thick layer of smoke blanketing the city in November 2019.

    Just a reminder that the fires are still so bad in NSW, this is what Sydney Harbour looks like right now. There is smoke everywhere and it just smells like fire. It is spring. None of this is okay.

    Twitter: @LoneVaultWander

    5. And the air quality in Melbourne plummeted to hazardous levels in January 2020, making it one of the worst-rated cities in the world.

    Now VS a few days ago. #melbournesmoke #AirQuality

    Twitter: @Astrokerrie

    6. Back to December 2019, 11 Australian citizens or residents were among the 19 people who died as a result of New Zealand's deadly Whakaari/White Island volcano eruption.

    7. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also criticised for going on a holiday to Hawaii with his family in December, while the rest of Australia grappled with severe bushfires that forced thousands to evacuate.

    8. Moving again to January 2020, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, and Joaquin Phoenix dedicated moments in the Golden Globes spotlight to highlight the bushfires ravaging Australia, as well as blame climate change.

    Russell Crowe got Jennifer Aniston to read out a climate change message about the bushfires at the Golden Globes, and honestly, what a lord

    Twitter: @JoshButler

    While Russell Crowe wasn't present at the ceremony, Jennifer Aniston accepted the Best Actor award on his behalf and read his acceptance speech out loud.

    "Russell Crowe could not be here with us tonight because he is at home in Australia protecting his family from the devastating bushfires. Make no mistake, the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we have a future. Thank you."

    9. Australian comedian Celeste Barber launched a Facebook fundraiser to benefit the NSW Rural Fire Service after her family was affected by bushfires in Eden, NSW.

    10. In the same month, ScoMo was blasted by locals during a visit to Cobargo, a bushfire-ravaged town in New South Wales. Some even refused to shake his hand and highlighted their frustration at the PM's response to the bushfires.

    “You won't be getting any votes around here, buddy. You're an idiot.” Residents in Cobargo, New South Wales confront Australian PM Scott Morrison about the government's response to the wildfires. Mr Morrison said he was "not surprised people are feeling very raw".

    Twitter: @Channel4News

    11. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their decision to "step back as 'senior' members" of the British royal family, split their time between the UK and USA, and became financially independent.

    12. Plus, the Australian Open started, resulting in Novak Djokovic winning the Men's Singles and Sofia Kenin the Women's Singles.

    13. We're not done with January just yet, though. On the 20th, massive dust storms blanketed entire towns in central New South Wales that transformed daytime into nighttime.

    Huge #duststorm rolling into #Dubbo #NSW yesterday like a dust tsunami! The #drought in #Australia is intense, with the frequency of particulate storms on the rise + more to come with summer in full swing. Followed by 2mm(!) of rain 🌧 📷 credit my good HS mate, A. Hildebrandt

    Twitter: @DrWilso

    14. Less than 24 hours later, a hail storm swept through Canberra and parts of New South Wales, which caused significant damage to cars, homes, and caused localised flooding.

    15 days apart. By my clock, we’re due for a plague of locusts by Australia Day... #AusPol #sydneystorm #canberrahail #AustralianBushfires #AustralianFires

    Twitter: @Cranky_Psych

    15. Then, on January 25, Australia confirmed its first COVID-19 case in Melbourne.

    16. Just two days later, the entire world was sent into mourning when it was confirmed that NBA player Kobe Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, had died in a helicopter crash.

    17. Australia's attention was drawn elsewhere though, with New South Wales being subjected to torrential downpour, wild winds, and flooding in early February.

    18. The rain also extinguished more than 30 fires, including one that had been burning for almost three months, and pushed up Warragamba Dam's levels from 44 to 80%.

    Incredible weather across Sydney. Upside down waterfalls at #Kurnell. #sydney #SydneyStorm #sydneyweather #weather

    Twitter: @AnthonyClarkAU

    19. Because, just in case bushfires, floods, and hailstorms weren't enough, Australia was also experiencing record-breaking drought, with some regions having little rain for the past three years.

    20. In mid-February, Australia's minds were still on the Black Summer bushfires, with a fundraising concert in Sydney called Fire Fight Australia raising $11.1 million for the national bushfire relief.

    21. But the 2020 Oscars were a nice distraction, with audience favourite Parasite taking home four awards, including Best Picture, and director Bong Joon-ho just being ~the moment~ the entire night.

    22. Oh, and Billie Eilish's confused face became a meme.

    Billie Eilish's reaction to Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig's #Oscars bit is def the new mood meme: https://t.co/UTAnQPJFF9

    Twitter: @Complex

    23. In March 2020, Australians responded to news of COVID-19 being labelled a world pandemic by panic-buying basic groceries.

    Today I went into my local Coles, I couldn’t believe the stockpiling happening. No long-life milk, toilet paper, rice, pasta & hardly any medicines, minimal lentils & canned tomatoes. You get the feeling people felt quite anxious after seeing these empty shelves. #coronavirus

    Twitter: @chrisledlin

    24. There was even #Toiletgate, which resulted in supermarket stores across Australia being emptied of the-once-easy-to-find loo paper.

    Not a square to spare at Coles Leichhardt 🧻 🤔 😂 #preppers #coronavirus #stockpile

    Twitter: @rebeccaholland

    25. During this month, people also called on ScoMo to #LockdownAustralia, like Italy and Spain, to slow down the rapid rise of COVID-19 case numbers.

    26. As more and more COVID-19 restrictions came into place, once popular tourist destinations in Australia were left completely empty.

    27. To keep spirits bright, Tom Hanks, who had tested positive for COVID-19 while filming in Australia, posted an interesting photo of his Vegemite toast. Unfortunately, his application of said Vegemite left a lot to be desired, resulting in Aussies taking the piss.

    Thanks to the Helpers. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other. Hanx

    Twitter: @tomhanks

    Bless his well-intentioned soul.

    28. Wrapping up March 2020 was cruise ship Ruby Princess, which disembarked passengers in Sydney despite several of them, as well as some crew, showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

    29. During April 2020, Australia was in a nationwide lockdown, which led to a resurgence in binge-worthy and wholesome content. Leading the pack was MasterChef Australia: Back To Win, which featured a fresh judging panel and fan-favourite contestants from past seasons.

    30. We were also very much obsessed with the Netflix doco Tiger King and its larger-than-life plot lines.

    31. Food trends also started to take off, including dalgona coffee, banana bread, sourdough (or really, bread in general), and a whole variety of recipes.

    32. And lastly, Australians, as well as the rest of the world, started taking mask-wearing and social distancing a lot more seriously as well as learning the significance of PPE and PCR tests.

    Compared to then, we’ve come a long way — but some things remain the same (attitudes towards Scott Morrison), while others have changed drastically (the fight against COVID-19, including vaccines, boosters, as well as the anti-vaxx movement).

    What things or news headlines do you remember happening just before the pandemic or in the early days of it?