At midday, this day three years ago, pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms and churches closed their doors with no known reopening date.
Following a meeting the with national cabinet on the growing COVID-19 crisis, then Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that non-essential activities and businesses would be temporarily shut down.
While schools would continue to remain open, parents were encouraged to keep their children at home and life as usual was turned on its head.
"I understand many in the community are worried, and these changes will affect everyday lives, and may be upsetting," she said at the time.
"But these decisions will make us all safer, they are taken with the health of all citizens in mind, and they must be taken now.
"If you have the capacity to work from home, you should do so."
With no vaccine and cases growing around the world, people were rightly concerned. But looking back at the pictures of those early days of the pandemic shutdown, it seems almost unbelievable.
Kids missing school waved out windows at their teachers, and shopping centres became ghost towns. In Sydney, cases among passengers onboard the Ruby Princess, which had just docked, were growing and the ship would soon be sent to berth at Port Kembla, where it would loom in the background of the city for a couple of weeks.
Cafes and restaurants could no longer host diners to eat in and turned into takeaway outlets - or even bakeries as they tried to make up their losses, and parents began the impossible juggle of - if they could - working from home while entertaining small children or supervising school lessons.
Little did we know that this was just start of a long period of uncertainty punctuated by lockdowns and unprecedented restrictions on movement and gatherings.
The measures taken at the start of the pandemic seem particularly dramatic when you compare the numbers between then and now.
On March 23, 2020 there had been 669 cases of COVID statewide - 26 in the Illawarra - and five deaths from the virus across all of NSW.
Vaccinations were a long way off and the effects of the virus were largely unknown, so people were frightened despite Australia's low number of cases.
Now, there are roughly five people a week in this region alone dying from COVID and - apart from vaccinations - there are no remaining measures to curb the spread.
Case numbers go mostly uncounted, as testing requirements have dropped off so the numbers reported don't represent the true amount of illness, and even deaths barely rate a mention.
According to the latest information from NSW Health the virus is again on the rise, despite a drop in the number of reported cases.
"There is a slight increase in emergency department presentations requiring admission, sewage indicators and workers furloughed," the weekly Respiratory Surveillance Report states.
"Although there is a small decline in COVID-19 cases notified this week, overall the indicators suggest an increased level of COVID-19 transmission in the community."
320 Illawarra lives lost in 2022: "There's complacency that's crept into society now that it's just COVID"
Emergency department presentations requiring an admission increased to 130, from 112 in the previous week, the report says, and there were 22 COVID-19 deaths reported in the seven days to March 18.
Intensive care admissions are also trending up, but remain well below the number of people admitted in the last Omicron surge around Christmas.
In the Illawarra Shoalhaven health district, there have been three deaths in the past week, 15 people admitted to hospital and two people in the ICU.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.