26 Mar 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: New Zealand wakes up to a new way of life

2:02 pm on 26 March 2020

Normally bustling city streets were empty, there was no rush hour and only a handful of people could be seen out and about as the country entered day one of the lockdown.

Auckland's Takapuna Beach on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Takapuna Beach, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Gone were the commuters clogging Auckland's motorway and, for the most part, those waiting for transport into work. Aside from the odd bus, most arterial routes flowing into the central business district were empty.

Auckland on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Auckland's northern motorway Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Auckland on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Lake Road, Devonport, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

Auckland's Devonport ferry terminal on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Devonport ferry terminal, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

Auckland's normally bustling Queen St was almost derelict. Like all main streets around the country, it was eerily quiet with the only noise being the hum of buses driving past and pedestrian buzzers going off despite no one using the crossings.

In the city's leafy suburb of Mt Eden, lots of people were out walking this morning, much the same as yesterday except today they were mostly solo and giving a slightly wider berth when passing each other. Gone were the roadside early morning catch-ups the suburb does so well.

Auckland's Queen Street on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Queen St, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The city's south was equally vacated, the main street in Ōtāhuhu was usually buzzing with people milling around the street, visiting bakeries, local shops and waiting for the bank to open. Today the only people about were the odd delivery truck driver and person visiting the ATM.

Auckland's Otahuhu on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Ōtāhuhu, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Auckland's Mangere on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Māngere, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Māngere town centre was devoid of most people, a small number were driving to a supermarket which would soon open and a few came and went from the ATM. Most shops in the town have had to close.

Central Hamilton was also eerily quiet, a number of vehicles were on the road but only a fraction of the number usually seen at what is normally the morning rush hour.

It appeared most on the road were heading to workplaces where their work was deemed as essential. Police patrols were on the streets but there was no sign of officers questioning people on why they were out and about.

The train station at Ellerslie was mostly deserted as the country woke up to it's first day in lockdown.  Trains were mostly empty. One south-bound train picked up four people, no passangers for the three city bound trains that stopped at the platform.

Ellerslie, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The train station at Ellerslie was mostly deserted as the country woke up to it's first day in lockdown.  Trains were mostly empty. One south-bound train picked up four people, no passangers for the three city bound trains that stopped at the platform.

Ellerslie, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

There were few cars and even fewer people in Central Napier. Only a small grocery shop on the main street was preparing to open, with all the cafes surrounding it closed.

There would usually be thousands of people travelling on State Highway One between Wellington and Palmerston North, but this morning only a handful of cars, as well as freight and waste management trucks were on the road.

It was the same in New Plymouth's downtown, where the streets were empty.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

One police car was patrolling Foxton's town centre in the Manawatū region.

Essential workers arrived at the local supermarket and MSD office, while the rest of the town's shops were shut.

Wellington on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Courtney Place, Wellington Photo: RNZ/ Rob Dixon

In Wellington city, only a handful of buses were seen this morning while walkers and cyclists made the most of the morning sun.

There was a line outside a central city supermarket, with two metres between each person who was waiting. Supermarkets now have a one in, one out policy.

A supermarket in central Wellington on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Wellington motorway on the morning of 26  March

Wellington Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Wellington waterfront, 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Lambton Quay, Wellington on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Lambton Quay, Wellington, on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Central Wellington on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ/ Rob Dixon

Wellingon Railway Station on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellington Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

There was only one other person waiting for the train at Wellington's Ava station this morning alongside, but 2 metres away from, RNZ reporter Phil Pennington.

Two strips of white tape marked 'caution' at chest and head height barred the link to the front carriage, which like the rear carriage, was reserved for staff.

It was a world away from two weeks ago when the train pulling into Ava station was so packed some people chose not to get on, Pennington said.

As the train made its way into the central city, alongside SH2 only the odd car, truck and bus passed it. The train usually passes traffic bumper to bumper.

In Masterton, the streets were deserted.

Christchurch had a foggy start to the first morning of the lockdown.

Bealey Ave, Christchurch on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Moorhouse Avenue, Christchurch Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Christchurch on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

New Regent St, Christchurch Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Christchurch on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Cathedral Square, Christchurch Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

It was a slightly busier scene in the Nelson city fringe, which was busy with police and security patrols, trucks restocking supermarkets and people walking dogs, cycling and jogging.

But it was so quiet you could hear the autumn leaves drop, said RNZ reporter in Nelson, Tracy Neal.

The post getting through in Nelson this morning.

The post getting through in Nelson this morning. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

In Dunedin, it was much the same - only a handful of people were out walking and very few cars were on the road.

In the central city's Octagon, the usual crowds of workers, walkers and coffee-drinkers were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, seagull screeches and bird song were the main sounds of the morning.

So far, Dunedin residents appeared to be heeding the advice to stay calm and stay home.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

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  • New Zealand lockdown: Rule breakers warned by police on first night of alert level 4
  • Coronavirus: Hospitals restrict visitors, postpone surgery
  • New Zealand lockdown: Eerily quiet streets as affairs are put into order