25 Sep 2020

Bittersweet: Kiwis reflect on demands of living with Covid-19

6:48 pm on 25 September 2020

Six months ago today the country was placed into full lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that was sweeping across the world.

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New Zealanders have adjusted to masks and Covid-19 tests, but restrictions on socialising and travel remain hard to take. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

At 11.59pm on 25 March, the country moved into alert level 4, introducing some of the strictest public health measures seen anywhere in the world.

Now, half a year on, how do New Zealanders remember that time, what do they make of the past six months, and what impact has it had on all our lives?

Six months, or 184 days ago, Simon Bridges was leader of the National Party, David Clark was Health Minister, and Iain Lees-Galloway was Immigration Minister.

It's been a busy six months since then. It's been a surreal - at times unbelievable - period of New Zealand's, and the entire world's history.

On a personal level, people have overseen great change in their lives - Francene Scott in Dunedin, for example.

"I've changed jobs, separated from a partner, changed house the day before lockdown, been through depression, and recovering on the other side of it.

"I think it's brought my family closer together, it's made us stronger as a unit."

Looking back at that one month when the country was at level 4, the curbs to personal freedom were unprecedented.

A quick recap of the situation:

  • Everyone was staying in bubbles
  • There was no inter-regional travel, no public gatherings and all public venues were closed
  • Only essential services and businesses stayed open
  • All educational facilities were shuttered.

Through the adversity, it gave Claire Mackay in Wellington the time to develop something new.

"With this lockdown, I've been able to build my relationship a lot more, because we had to isolate separately. We were able to talk a lot more, and everytime we called every day, we had to think of something to talk about, so we actually got to know each other a lot more."

Meanwhile for Andrew Douglas it was the chance to change habits. "I've done a lot of dumb stuff when I drink and that kind of stuff, so it was nice not to feel any of that pressure to go out. That couch was beautiful."

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Andrew Douglas says it's been easier to behave better because he has not had the same freedom to go out and socialise. Photo: 123rf.com

But level 4 wasn't easy for everyone, including teacher aide Lisa Glavey. She said she missed out on a job because she couldn't go in when asked, as she had a cold at the time. It ended up going to someone else.

It was the distance from family which hit Derek Quigley particularly hard.

"Being an Aucklander [I missed] being able to go on holiday down the country, or being able to go visit my sister in Melbourne.

"The first lockdown was really tough, because my Mum is at a village with lots of elderly people, so that was really tough."

A worker crosses the street in Melbourne's central business district on August 19, 2020, as the city battles an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. -

The inability to visit Australia is upsetting for some, including Derek Quigley. Photo: AFP

On 27 April, the country moved down to level 3 for a period of two and a bit weeks, until level 2 was welcomed in on 13 May, and then, on 8 June it went down to level 1.

While things like mask wearing, hand sanitising, and QR-code scanning aren't as alien as they once were, there are harder things for people to accept.

"We're getting married next month," said Brendan from Hamilton. "Quite a few of our overseas guests can't come - that's quite unfortunate, that's taken us a while to come to terms with."

The reality of having borders closed, and with little prospect of them opening any time soon, is tough for Joshua Steel.

"It's definitely odd getting used to not able to go overseas, and realising that will probably be the case for the next year or so, which is a little bit daunting to be honest."

On reflection, looking back at the entire six months, Mathias Te Moananui was optimistic.

"I tend to look at the positives of it, and I'm quite hopeful for the future. I feel a sense of renewal from everything that's happened. There's a lot of things that have been brought to the forefront of the public's minds and I'm excited to see where they go with it."

The country celebrated 100 days of no community transmission on 10 August, but just two days later, a new case was announced in Auckland.

The virus's return has served as a reminder that with six months down, there's still a long way to go.

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