On 25 March, 2020, the whole of New Zealand went into lockdown. Almost immediately, we went to level 4, the highest level of the Government’s four-stage alert system. All schools and most businesses closed, and we were told to stay at home. The nation united against the common enemy of Covid-19.
Shopping malls, highways, parks, and streets were empty. It was like when Cillian Murphy walked the silent streets of London in 28 Days Later. But instead of lumbering zombies, we faced an invisible threat. Don’t touch that door handle. Don’t go within breathing distance of that jogger. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
Under level 4, we lived in our separate bubbles—with family, with flatmates, or alone. Communication became even more digital, erasing the distinction between friends near and far. The mate you were video chatting with could be living on the same street or on the other side of the world.
All social gatherings were forbidden. No sports, no weddings, no parties. Also, no travelling. No camping or picnics. We became a nation of homebodies. Those with time on their hands took up new habits. Walking around the neighbourhood and in the local bush. Cycling. Gardening. Long-delayed handyman projects.
Many were suddenly out of work. Others were able to work from home. But day after day of the same home-bound routine brought challenges. How to educate and entertain the kids? How to get enough exercise? What to watch if you finished the entire Netflix catalogue?
Now it is June. Two and a half months have passed, and we have won the first round against the virus. New Zealand has had no new cases for 20 days, and all active cases have recovered. With our borders sealed, we can go back to a relatively normal life.
It is a tenuous new existence, but we count ourselves blessed. Others around the world have had it far worse.
My family and I look forward to the day we can safely visit our friends and family in Japan. Until then, we wish you all in Japan the best of health and a strong recovery.