Did you know that New Zealand has beaten coronavirus, not once, but twice?
Since everyone knows about the traditional quarantine experiences of online learning, interviews through zoom, etc. I won’t focus on these. Instead, I’ll cover some of the more interesting aspects of the New Zealand lockdown experience.
I distinctly remember the day that community transmissions had been confirmed: it was a bright, sunny afternoon and the sound of tense chatter was ubiquitous throughout the air of our physics class. Everyone was crowding around laptop screens, waiting for our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern (or Aunty Cindy as we like to call her informally) to make the call as to whether New Zealand would enter lockdown.
Suddenly, it was announced.
Community transmission? Confirmed. Lockdown? Starting midnight. School? Cancelled. Thus began the odyssey of our social hiatus.
As we unfortunately witnessed the number of cases slowly climbing higher and higher every day, we also watched one of our health ministers, David Clark, break the rules of quarantine repeatedly, not only by driving his family twenty-kilometres to a beach, but also embarking on a dangerous mountain-biking expedition and moving his family from one house to another. As expected, he resigned shortly after —to the delight of many New Zealanders.
However, on a healthier and more personal note, even under the strict conditions of quarantine, we were allowed daily jogs or walks in order not to completely devoid us from the crisp autumn air. To make the dull life of lockdown more interesting for children, a new social trend emerged which saw my mum (yes it’s spelled with a ‘u’ instead of an ‘o’ here in New Zealand) digging all my stuffed childhood animal friends and setting them carefully on the windowsill facing the streets and muttering a spell to make them sit upright. The idea was that children walking with their parents would notice and experience a bit more colour in their day as they could wave hello to all the plushies who were waiting all day and all night for them to walk past.
After 1504 cases, a very unfortunate twenty-two deaths, and seventy-five days in isolation, New Zealand became coronavirus-free.
We had shown the world that this horrific virus was beatable when strict measures throughout the country were followed. Although we were aided by the fact that we lived in a bubble away from neighbouring countries and both our population and population density are relatively low, the sense of national pride was in every New Zealander when on June 8th, it was announced that the last person had fully recovered from the virus.
For the next two months, life was as we knew it pre-COVID. The sense of normality after such a long period of being in isolation almost felt alien to us, and this was aided by the fact that almost every other country in the world was still dealing with this horrible virus.
Then, this deadly disease struck us once again in August and I found myself once again waking up five minutes before my online classes and lazily attending all of them in my pyjamas.
Thankfully, around a month and a bit later, we found ourselves hugging our friends at school again. New Zealand had beaten the coronavirus, not once, but twice, making headlines once again. Up until today, four months after the last outbreak, there have been no community transmissions and everyone is now hoping for a sunny COVID-free Christmas (the southern hemisphere experiences a sunny Christmas as opposed to a snowy one).
I sincerely hope the best for everyone and everyone’s families out there still currently in quarantine. Please keep yourself safe by socially distancing, wearing a mask, and following the advice of medical experts. New Zealand has shown it is possible to beat coronavirus if everyone plays their part in keeping each other safe, and I believe this is possible in other countries too.