5 May 2020

Covid-19: The Kiwis who've spent 100 days in lockdown

9:26 am on 5 May 2020

While most New Zealanders are adjusting to life under alert level 3 after almost five weeks at alert level 4, some are emerging from months living under even tighter restrictions.

Oliver Ren's Christmas tree before he went to Wuhan and after he came back. The family was only able to come back home after about 100 days in lockdown and quarantine.

Oliver Ren's Christmas tree, which he left up when he went to Wuhan in mid-January. Photo: Supplied

For a small group caught up in the outbreak in Wuhan first and then again here, it's been around 100 days under quarantine and in lockdown.

They said it's a unique experience through which they have learnt how to get on better with their family, develop new friendships and to appreciate life more.

Life in quarantine and under lockdown has been challenging for Aucklander Oliver Ren.

"It's such a long time. It takes us 102 days to come back home, including 90 days in quarantine in both Wuhan and Auckland."

His family of four went back to their hometown Wuhan for the Chinese New Year in mid-January.

They didn't go out much because cases of Covid-19 started to surge.

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They booked the first available flights back home last month, spent two weeks in government-arranged quarantine and are now finally back to their own home, continuing life within their little bubble.

Ren said even under alert level 3 restrictions he felt more at ease staying at his own home and he had been taking time to reflect on how his experience has changed him.

"You cannot avoid thinking about your family role - how to stay with your family and support each other and also your relatives in the same city or a different city. Also you'll think about your social role - you don't want this kind of thing to happen again," he said.

Ren said things like taking a walk around the neighbourhood were delighting his family more than before.

"You'll find that the normal life is so valuable. In ordinary time, you can't notice that."

Aucklander Lily Gao, who RNZ's been in touch since January, went back to her hometown Wuhan with her two-year-old daughter to visit her family late December.

Lily Gao and her daughter Elysse. Gao says she's enjoying spending lots of time with her family during quarantine or lockdown both in Wuhan and Auckland.

Photo: Supplied

She was able to enjoy a few days of normal social life before more cases emerged in mid-January and the full lockdown later that month.

Gao spent two weeks in Whangaparāoa after being evacuated by the government-chartered flight from Wuhan to Auckland in early February.

To make sure she and her daughter didn't pose a risk to anyone else they then avoided socialising and mainly stayed at home for a further two weeks.

The family continued to stay at home as much as possible as cases kept increasing in New Zealand, and then it went into lockdown along with everyone else.

Gao said it's a unique and precious experience and she's glad she could spend the extra time with her family in China.

"While I was quarantined in Wuhan, I had to stay at home with my family, my mum, my dad and my younger brother. I hadn't stayed for such a long time with them for a few years because I used to be busy with work. After came to New Zealand, I didn't spend much time in China."

Back home Gao said she was also enjoying having her husband around all the time as he usually would be at work.

She has been busy practising yoga, learning tips to keep her daughter engaged, and getting rid of old clothes and toys.

Gao said she was still in touch with friends she made during the evacuation.

"We helped each other. We shared some information about how to look after children."

She said the experience had taught her not to take everything for granted.

"I realised it's really important to keep healthy and to have some deep bonds with our family members."

Cabinet reviews how the country is tracking and will make a decision on whether to move out of level 3 next week, on 11 May.

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