Hamish Clark: The sting in the Covid tail

The South Island is desperate for the borders to reopen and tourists return. Photo: Getty Images
The South Island is desperate for the borders to reopen and tourists return. Photo: Getty Images
OPINION: NZ Herald South Island Head of News Hamish Clark on the sting in the Covid tail as we learn to live with the virus.

For almost two years the South Island has had it better than anyone else when it came to not catching Covid.

We grinned and bore it in 2020, skipped through it in 2021 while our Auckland cousins took the hit and suffered the longest lockdowns from August to Christmas.

Southerners took glee at the freedoms we had back then, living the dream – dining out, watching kids sport from the sidelines, free in the knowledge that Covid was contained at the Auckland border and nowhere to be seen in the South Island.

We swam and holidayed through the endless summer like it was the 1970s.

Kiwis enjoying our own backyard, the international borders closed shut – all stuck in paradise at home.

Then at the end of January, it hit – Omicron in the South – just as the school bell rang in 2022 - the Covid holiday was over.

Omicron had arrived and slowly spread across the mainland.

It was the first time we had to accept community cases were in our neighbourhood.

Yes, it wasn't as strong as Delta, but we were warned to get a booster, don't take any chances - it is very contagious - like pollen floating on a hot Canterbury norwester.

And then we were told to work from home – something South Islanders have avoided so far, and not as experienced at as our counterparts in Auckland.

It was a new way of life – that took time to get used to.

Twelve weeks so far and counting. sitting at a computer at the dinner table, Zoom calls in shorts and a t-shirt, no Friday office drinks just lots of instant coffee.

As Auckland cases ballooned, South Island cases lagged behind.

Today it's the opposite.

Canterbury and South Canterbury combined have more Covid cases than Auckland.

Everyone knows someone with the virus or has had the "'rona" - a child at school, a sick colleague isolated at home, friends who have tested positive using RATs.

As Auckland returns to normal and people go back about their business, we lay hunkered waiting for the spike to hit.

The mainland is two to three weeks behind – desperate to catch up to Auckland.

With autumn hanging in the air and daylight saving almost over, the South Island is desperate for the virus to subside and the halcyon days to return; for the ski fields to be full of Aussies, the borders to reopen, welcoming the world to our piece of paradise once again.

-By Hamish Clark
NZ Herald South Island Head of News 

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