There’s no holiday from the lockdown

Roadblocks and curfews. Who would have thought New Zealand would be a country in which ordinary citizens thought such remarkable restrictions were a good idea.

Both have been floated as ways to stop those who should know better from unwittingly spreading Covid-19. Both have been floated by people potentially powerful enough to make them happen.

Grey District Mayor Tania Gibson has pondered the merit of restricting movement to and within her district after a weekend of reports of people flouting the lockdown rules.

Coincidentally, there were reports of tensions at some West Coast holiday hotspots, where the populations apparently swelled with holiday home owners on the eve of the lockdown.

The police want out-of-town bach owners to stay where they are, just as the rest of the country is. If they decide to leave for the Coast, then they will be told to go back home.

As they do every other Easter weekend, the police will have a "high visibility presence" on our roads. But, for the first time, they will actively dissuade people from holidaying.

Breaches will be treated on their merits but the basic foundation principle remains: everyone must stay at their current residence, except when undertaking essential travel.

Grocery shopping and seeing a doctor are two such examples of essential travel. Making a road trip to the your favourite holiday spot — no matter how lovely — is not.

The Government has told us to "stay local". We have been told unnecessary movement exposes us to risks that could unnecessarily burden our emergency services and our hospitals. We might be carrying Covid-19. We might contract Covid-19. We might have an accident or sustain an injury that drags a volunteer out of their bubble. We might tie up resources needed for someone else.

None of this is news. We have had a constant diet of such advice since the day before the lockdown started. There should be absolutely no doubt as to the rules and of our community expectations.

It is true certain missteps have clouded the crystal clarity of the basic stay-at-home message. When Health Minister David Clark went mountain biking last week, fellow riders wondered whether this meant they were being over-cautious in sticking to the road.

They were not. Mr Clark was wrong to model behaviour that was contrary to the official message. He was wrong to sow doubt when every official action needs to be firm and clear.

On the Coast, Mrs Gibson has made the need to follow official advice very clear by even considering whether the likes of curfews and roadblocks should be used to keep wilful lockdown breakers at home.

Such public ponderings very clearly show how seriously we ought to take our responsibilities to ourselves and our communities. They show we cannot muck about.

They also contrast the musings of others who dissect official pronouncements in order to to justify why the rules ought not apply to them. Over the past week, we have had reports of surfers and boaties spending their lockdown offshore; of mountain bikers enjoying challenging routes; of walkers getting lost in the bush, and of an uptick in "browsing" at supermarkets

Some of those warned off their hobbies say they are doing nobody any harm, that they are social distancing and that they are experienced and safe while doing so. Many bemoan a lack of "common sense" behind the restrictions. They may be right. It may be that there was no common sense in assuming all New Zealanders would use their own common sense in a lockdown whose aim is clearly articulated in its name.

It took a couple of days for the Government to clarify what movement was considered fair and reasonable during lockdown. Without clear guidelines, that meant people could defend their breaches on the basis they exercised reasonable discretion.

We entered lockdown without the clarity of the likes of Ireland, where recreational movement is restricted to within 2km of one’s home, and only with people from one’s own household. And each day, some need reminding some of what we used to do, such as shooting away to the crib, is no longer possible.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins’ pre-Easter message bears repeating: "We’re only asking people to do two things over Easter — stay at home and try not to kill anyone."

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