Closures, followed by mass chaos.
In crucial corners of the Hunter's job markets, that employ 62,000 people, it's been a week like never before.
Rolling shutdown announcements by the federal government fighting to stop the spread of COVID-19 saw queues of laid-off workers snaked around blocks outside Hunter Centrelink offices.
Hunter Research Foundation lead economist Dr Anthea Bill said some of the region's largest employment sectors, representing 62,000 jobs or 18 per cent of the workforce, were most at risk.
Dr Bill predicted the region's unemployment rate could quickly double from 4.5 per cent last month, to more than 10 per cent.
Across the Hunter there has been large-scale job losses in the retail trade sector that employs 31,600 people, accommodation and food services that has 26,500 workers and arts and recreation that accounts for 3500 jobs.
"Given the size of these sectors we can quickly start to see the enormous economic impact already taking effect from necessary measures to battle the spread of COVID-19," Dr Bill said.
"In December, 2019, 16,000 people were unemployed in the Hunter Region, a fraction of the 62,000 people employed in these sectors."
In spite of the billions of government dollars committed in attempts to check the crisis, the economic indicators continue to worsen.
Dr Bill said single people previously working in retail who had been forced onto government benefits faced a weekly pay cut of $255.50 per week.
"Income disparities for families moving from paid work to Newstart are likely to be larger and more detrimental," she said.
"When we consider median rent for a two-bedroom house in Newcastle is $390 per week, we can see that rental stress and rent-arrears are likely to jump without assistance."
University of Newcastle economist Professor Bill Mitchell described the scale of the problem as "diabolical".
Director of the Centre for Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), Professor Mitchell predicted the region would see mass insolvencies in vulnerable industries including hospitality and leisure.
"Cafes in Newcastle are already struggling in the inner-city because so much business has been killed off," he said.
"The Hunter is quite exposed because it has a high proportion of people working in the service industry and these businesses are very vulnerable.
"What's going to be left to reopen is the question, how many will go broke in the interim is the concern. Offering loans to businesses is stupid, they don't want to borrow."
Worst-case scenario, up to 3 million people - or 20 per cent of Australians - could find themselves unemployed, he said.
Professor Mitchell said the government needed to start putting cash in the hands of people and follow Poland's lead by guaranteeing wages up to 80 per cent.
He said Australia was starting the pandemic crisis in "much worse shape" than the Global Financial Crisis, and he agreed with assertions that the current stimulus package was like "taking a knife to a gun fight".
"Some people estimate that GDP will fall by 8 to 10 per cent, if that happens the unemployment rate will be well into double figures, close to 20 per cent," he said.
"The government has got to do a whole lot more."
At the very least, the government needs to pay sick leave for casual staff to ensure they do not continue to work if they get sick.
"If you push people into desperate circumstances, they will take risks," Professor Mitchell said.
"Even if they get sick they will keep working and the health implications are very worrying."
A range of other measures to get people working would also help.
"There are no shortage of things to be done and if we have one to two million people laid-off where they can't work, the government needs to be proactive about addressing this," he said.
"Repairing basic infrastructure destroyed by bushfires, the government could create teams of people to deliver shopping to the elderly or help in the health sector with laundry or moving beds.
"As long as you can develop safe working systems, people could maintain their income while they can't do the jobs they are currently doing."
The only protection from the pandemic the region has is that less people rely on public transport and the Hunter has lower population density compared to major cities.
"We are not quite as exposed due to those things, but we have a much lower proportion of professionals who can work from home," Professor Mitchell said.
"We have a lot more people working in the service industry, lower paid employees, these businesses are very vulnerable and have taken a big hit from lost jobs. We're quite exposed in that context."