1 Apr 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: Looking back at the first week

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 1 April 2020

Wednesday marks seven days since New Zealand moved into its level four lockdown and it has been a week like no other.

Life across the country has been turned upside down and it has been challenging to say the least.

With everyone cooped up at home, it is often hard to measure how we're all going, but the numbers don't lie, so our reporter Nita Blake-Persen and cameraman Nick Monro put together this report looking at some of the key figures of week one.

For most, the message to go home and stay home is getting through - our biggest cities have gone from bustling metropolises to ghost towns.

Auckland traffic is down 64 percent on the same time a year ago, Wellington - 72 percent, Christchurch - 67 percent, Hamilton - 62 percent, and Dunedin traffic is down 69 percent.

NIWA principal air quality scientist Ian Longley said fewer cars made for less air pollution - several New Zealand testing sites were down between 70 and 80 percent.

He said that was much higher than some scientists were noticing in cities overseas.

"It's certainly giving the environment a bit of a break and those folks who live near major roads, it's giving their health a bit of a break."

While people are moving off the roads, internet traffic has ramped up. Spark said its broadband traffic during weekdays had doubled and night time peaks were up 27 percent.

Their busiest time was 9pm and Friday night saw the heaviest traffic they had ever experienced.

With shops closed, spending plummeted - Paymark figures show electronic card transactions dropped 70 percent on the first day of the lockdown.

In lieu of purchases, many households have welcomed new pets into their homes.

The SPCA was able to adopt out 1157 animals between Friday, 20 March and the end of the day on Wednesday 25 March - around three times the normal weekly number of adoptions. 

It said it had not received any increase in the number of animals being abandoned at its shelters, and hoped it stayed that way.

Amid the lockdown, of course, life and death must go on - but that too has changed drastically.

Over the past week, more than 500 babies have been born - that is 500 newborns who have not been able to meet anyone beyond their bubble, and parents who have not been able to get the usual wraparound support they might from the community.

And death rituals have changed too - more than 440 people have passed away during lockdown, none of whom have been able to have funerals.

Harbour City Funeral Home director Simon Manning said staff were working in a different and difficult environment with whānau unable to even see their deceased loved ones for a last time if they were not in their bubble.

"While the daughter of the deceased might be in the bubble, what about the other seven siblings?"

And the government's message to stay at home may seem a simple one on the surface, but Auckland psychotherapist Lynne Dunphy said the lockdown was much more than that.

"In a situation like this, where there is on the one hand a clear threat, in terms of the Covid-19 virus, there is also a threat to our sense of wellbeing in terms of connectedness with other people.

"No man is an island - we are hardwired for connection with other people."

Dunphy said the message to be kind was a good reminder that everyone was going through this ordeal together.

"Everybody is actually experiencing this at some level or another, in the same way." 

She said it was that connection that must continue beyond physical isolation, as everyone comes together with the number one goal of saving lives and beating the Covid-19 outbreak.