A year since everything changed

Where were you when you first heard somebody say "Covid-19"?

And could you possibly have realised then that, far from being just a strange word that would be in one ear and out the other, it would in fact be the term that would come to dominate your life, and the lives of billions of people, for the next year?

For it is indeed one year since Covid really came to New Zealand, since a person in their 60s recently returned from Iran became Patient Zero.

One year. One year of what, for most, has been the strangest period of our lives.

There was a time when "lockdown" was what American high schools practised for when a gunman was on the loose, when masks were only for fancy dress parties, when "going hard and going early" referred to a rugby scrum, when panic buying only happened when the latest Harry Potter book was released, when quarantine was more vaguely associated with scenes from pandemics in the 19th century, and when bubbles were merely things to entertain little children.

It has been quite a journey, starting with the period of full lockdown in New Zealand, that frightening time when the virus seemed to be spreading so quickly, and we got spooked at the sight of anyone with a sniffly nose.

Businesses shuttered their doors, schools made plans to educate pupils remotely, and families bunkered down to wait for the Covid storm to pass.

The New Zealand Government opted for an elimination strategy, reckoning that our natural advantages (small population, geographic isolation, a populace generally willing to follow the rules) allied with our sensible approach to crises had us better placed than most to get through.

When we saw the shambolic early efforts of our friends in the United States and the United Kingdom to grapple with the virus, we felt our approach was entirely validated.

We still lost 26 people to the virus — and our thoughts must always be with the families of the victims — but the doomsday scenario of thousands of deaths and hospitals overrun with Covid patients never came to pass.

When the Covid dust cleared, so to speak, the collateral damage was the economic stress placed on, especially, small businesses and areas like Queenstown so dependent on the tourist dollar, and perhaps "the long tail of Covid" will be making its presence felt for some time.

By and large, life in New Zealand has — relatively speaking, and especially when compared to other areas of the globe — returned to some normality over the past seven or eight months.

A handful of minor outbreaks have raised fears but generally been contained. The masks we have to wear on public transport are a very minor inconcenience. Government subsidies have staunched (some of) the economic bleeding.

Covid remains in the daily news cycle, and our borders are still closed. But Fred Dagg’s great line — "We don’t know how lucky we are"— comes to mind as we freely gather at social events, sports games and concerts. Much of the world is envious of us.

We now talk regularly of a "post-Covid" world, and that is starting to take shape, though it cannot happen overnight.

The extraordinary work done by scientists to develop vaccines for the coronavirus is now being followed by an unprecedented global vaccination programme, and the early signs are promising.

Quarantine-free travel with selected nations is the next big goal for New Zealand.

We are, fingers crossed, well down the path towards eradicating or completely controlling this virus. Let’s keep working to consign Covid-19 to history.


I haven’t seen any of JA’s 1pm political updates yet, did I miss much?







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