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Cut Off From the World Again, Australia Now Finds Silver Linings

Michael Brand, the museum’s director, who previously ran the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, said it pointed to how the pandemic was making people more thoughtful users of time and space.

Maybe fewer options and more planning will “liberate our minds,” he said.

Technology, he added, will save Australia from fully retreating into itself. He said he had been frequenting museum collections online, while also using the time gained from a lack of travel to explore new realms — such as Nordic crime dramas.

Ms. Harper, who published a new novel, “The Survivors,” last month, said she had also been encouraged by larger-than-usual audiences for her readings online.

“There are so many people there who would never come to an in-person book event,” she said.

Some surprising businesses are adapting, too. Frank Theodore, a fishmonger at the Sydney Fish Market, upgraded his Get Fish website after a bleak April and said total sales were up this month compared with last October.

And yet the virtual has its limits. Ms. Harper’s parents can’t hug their grandchildren over Zoom. Mr. Brand has started posting photos to Instagram of past trips with the phrase “museums I’m missing during the pandemic.”

Social norms are also under strain. Mr. Siggins, a chatty former bartender, recently ordered a cocktail delivered to his home in Melbourne from a local bar and met an acquaintance at the door. He said it felt like an awkward date.

“It’s such a strange interaction,” he said, “because you can’t just tell them to come in and have a beer, and you are just really out of practice, reacting to conversation, even facial expressions.”

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