It’s been two long weeks since the schools shut in New Zealand thanks to our overly friendly globetrotting bug, Mr Covid-19. Not to count our chickens, or kiwis I suppose, but this attempt to flatten the curve seems to be working. In no way do I wish to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic, but I’m counting my blessings that my little family are currently in New Zealand which seems to have a pretty good handle on things. There are only ten cases in our region, South Canterbury, which just goes to show how remote we truly are (I think it is unlikely that it is because we are world-class hand washers). I do feel very lucky to live in New Zealand during this lockdown.
It got weird quick
At first, we binged watched Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness whose success I can only put down to a deep-rooted need to escape reality. And what better way than immersing ourselves wholeheartedly in the escapades of a bleached mullet sporting zookeeper turned presidential candidate turned inmate.
We then cannonballed through the first six episodes of the seventh season of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I was struck by how fast the world went sideways. A couple of episodes in, there was a brief mention of coronavirus. This was followed by John Oliver hosting the show in a sterile white room as the studio practised social distancing while the last episode he shot by himself at home. I mean, this is an HBO show (you know, the same people who made Games of Throne) so some bespeckled Brit in an empty basement or garage is a massive departure from their normal style.
The day before yesterday, I watched a rare speech from the Queen. There was a tear in my eye at how proud I am to be British as she said we just need to suck it up and think of England (I’m paraphrasing of course and possibly mixing my metaphors but you get the gist).
I looked at my news feed this morning in disbelief. Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister, is in intensive care.
Things have gone south fast. If I lived anywhere but New Zealand right now, I’m fairly certain I would be freaking out.
Why is New Zealand relatively bug-free?
I haven’t done the math, but population density might have something to do with it. New Zealand is about the same size as the UK but with a lot fewer people. There are around 4.8M people in New Zealand as opposed to nearly 67M in the UK. We have space to breath virus-free air here. I was struck when we first moved to New Zealand just how quiet it was. Now, we are in one of the least populated areas, purposely chosen for just that fact. It seems a little busier now we are in lockdown as families cycle around getting their daily dose of exercise (and getting a much needed happy hit from the endorphin that exercise releases). The roads are so wide though, you could probably put on a parade and still adhere to the social distancing rules.
The main factor though is New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Arden didn’t waste time in acting to halt the spread of Covid-19. 14-day self-isolation, the borders closing and then the countrywide lockdown were all implemented rapidly at the earliest signs of Covid-19s advance. What I admire most about Jacinda Arden’s management of this situation is that she laid out her plan of attack and stuck to her guns whilst showing a great deal of empathy which was no doubt was crucial in winning New Zealanders over. I’m not a political creature, but I am human and do appreciate it when a leader can look the camera in the eye and show actual emotion without prevarication. It’s just so gosh darn refreshing.
The ‘new normal’
I am not a fan of that saying. There is nothing normal about this new situation that we are all finding ourselves in. This will be for many, some of the bleakest days of our lives and yet, there will be no one to physically comfort us. A cup of tea, or dare I say it, a hug, can solve a lot of problems. I’m seeing a lot of brave faces (online obvs) but to anyone who is feeling lost right now, know that I am sending you a mental hug.
I feel ok. But that’s because Mr Right is an essential worker so we still have an income coming in. Plus he has an excuse to escape the household bubble every day so divorce isn’t on the cards just yet. Also, we are fairly alone here anyway as all our family is literally on the other side of the world. Perhaps, immigrating has prepared us psychologically for dealing with this to some extent. I’m worried for our family back home, but I couldn’t do anything more for them if I were there right now anyway. In many ways, it is what it is. I guess we will ride it out and pick up the pieces afterwards.
Counting down to the end of the lockdown
So here we are, halfway through New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown and I feel optimistic that, whilst things may never return to the way they were exactly, we may be heading toward some kind of normality. The kids and I enjoying each others company although poor Mr Right is getting no sleep during the day with all the noise (the novelty of the conservatory and garage wore thin quick). I only hope that you dear reader can look toward the future too.
I’m seeing a lot of community goodwill, from artists sharing free colouring pages, playing songs and reading stories, to neighbours cutting lawns or dropping off supplies. I read a quote today from one of my favourite authors, Arundhati Roy,
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
I hope, when we look back on this challenging time, that we can be proud of how we handled it as individuals, communities and cultures.
On a lighter note, if you have time to spare, I thoroughly recommend reading Roy’s The God of Small Things (I’d lend you my copy but it’s rather dog eared). Failing that, I hear there may be a surprise episode of Tiger King to watch soon!