Alone, together: living through Covid-19 in New Zealand
Our Alone, Together series is a powerful reminder of just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has altered our lives. That said, nations across the world have been impacted by the virus at different times and in so many different ways. As New Zealand begins to relax its strict lockdown – with residents able to travel to work and spend more time outside for the first time – reports are circulating that the country has ‘eradicated’ the lockdown. The health secretary was swift to shut these reports down, asserting that the battle has not yet been won. But it’s fair to say that New Zealand has been held up as a model of decisive action, transparent leadership and community spirit.
We spoke to a few of our friends at The Travel Corporation, working in Auckland: Sales Manager Damon Schmiddt, General Manager Louise Levesque and Marketing Executive Emily Collins. Revealing the humans behind the headlines, here are their experiences living through Covid-19 in New Zealand…
New Zealand’s approach to the virus
Although the potential impact of a pandemic has long-kept scientists awake at night, it’s fair to say Covid-19 took many governments by surprise. Scrutiny of the world leaders has focused on the lack of PPE equipment, testing, and not enough urgency moving into lockdown. In New Zealand, however, there seems to be a far more positive perception of how the government is handling the crisis.
“It escalated very quickly in NZ,” says Emily. “One day we were at level two, practicing social distancing and preventative measures, and then within 48 hours the whole country was on lockdown, with strict essential working rules in place. We’re now almost into week four of this new reality and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that this pandemic will change and shape our world going forward.”
“However, things feel and seem less intense here in New Zealand when you compare our situation with the rest of the world. As a British resident living in NZ, I feel both lucky to be so far away from the intensity of the pandemic in the UK, yet so guilty for my family and friends who are in the thick of it all.
“We’re fortunate in New Zealand to still be able to leave the house for walks and daily exercise. We’ve been encouraged by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to get involved with the nationwide teddy bear hunts – where houses across the country placed cherished bears in their windows so they could be found on daily walks. The sense of unity these simple initiatives have sparked are truly heart-warming and at a time when most of us find ourselves separated from our loved ones; we’ve welcome any feeling of togetherness with open arms!”
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The new routines
We’ve all had a tough time adapting to the new normal – either trying to follow live stream workouts and baking sourdough or eating biscuits while wearing a bath robe 24/7… One of the groups of people that the virus has impacted the most is parents, meaning balancing family life and work life can feel impossible.
“A lot has changed in the past four weeks. I get up at 6am for some alone time prior to the kids waking up, then start work at 7am while my husband looks after the kids,” says Louise. “Then we switch at lunchtime so he can work – it really is a huge juggle with two kids under four. Lots of Pinterest ideas, cardboard crafts and baking is getting us through this!”
But the new reality has also massively impacted the way we interact with the news on a day to day basis. Who do we trust? Is staring blankly at twitter really good for our mental health?
“I’ve been sticking to the ‘horse’s mouth rule,’” explains Emily. “Which means just listening to information from someone who has personal knowledge on the matter. In our case, it’s the 1pm update from the Director General of Public Health Ashley Bloomfield, usually accompanied by the PM.
“I realised early on that I was consuming too much media on Covid-19 in New Zealand and it was negatively affecting my mental health. Just checking in with the facts once a day means I can stay informed but not overwhelmed. I’d also like to give a high five to the mute function on Instagram – I very quickly unfollowed the homegrown ‘reporters’ and dialled up the #dogsofinstagram content.”
The tragic effects of lockdown
“My Dad had passed away a day before New Zealand went into lockdown,” says Louise. “This has meant that we weren’t able to have a funeral for him – although my brother, sister and mum were able to say goodbye which meant the world. I do see this as a blessing. My heart goes out to anyone who loses a loved one over this period, as often it will mean that they won’t be able do this. They won’t be surrounded by their loved ones, their friends and be able to grieve how they would have in the ‘old’ world.”
Moments of light
Sometimes though it’s important to take a step back, reflect and dwell on all the things we can be thankful for. It seems the kiwis are particularly good at that too.
“There are SO many lighter stories coming out of this terrible time, from locals singing to the elderly community stuck in their rest homes to free food deliveries to people who can’t get out,” says Damon. “Despite it being a crisis it is really warming and comforting to see this sort of stuff happening. We make a cup of coffee each time our postman comes to deliver, only twice a week now. It’s a great time to connect with him at a time that would be seriously lonely.
“I’m thankful that we have an incredible leader who made a hard but clearly beneficial decision to close the borders during this time. And also our location has meant we can shut ourselves off from the rest of the world for now and wait out the storm.”
Thinking about the post-pandemic world
The consensus seems to be that nothing will be the same once we emerge from Covid-19 in New Zealand and beyond. But perhaps there will be positives – if we can find a new, more mindful way of looking at the world around us.
“It’s finding contentment in the wait for my morning coffee, knowing the world isn’t going to fall apart in the next 10 minutes,” says Emily. “Acknowledging how lucky we are to have our coffee made by another talented human – it’s the little things! It’s remaining calm if my doctor’s appointment is running late, knowing that they’re probably behind because the doctor or nurse is taking extra care with another patient and that I should be grateful that I can safely check in with a medical professional.
“It’s letting go of any frustration because my train was late on the way to work, and actively being grateful that I can use public transport to get to the office, where I can work alongside my awesome team developing exciting travel projects that encourage people to explore the world.”