Day 34 of life in lockdown and our first in level 3. There is cause for celebration although perhaps the mood is one of cautious, quiet optimism. After all there have been secondary surges in countries like China. The question arises: Are we out in front, globally, with just 1472 confirmed cases, of which only three more were added today, and of that 1472, a reassuring 1214 people have recovered? There have been nineteen deaths in total and most of those from the same rest home clusters in West Auckland and Christchurch. It does feel like we have a containment.
Just now I googled these key words ‘NZ-leading -world-containment-covid-19’ and up popped a headline from the Washington Post, dated 7 April, ‘New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve. It’s squashing it.’ How search engines process algorithms is a mystery to me. The article directly below the Washington Post was even older, from RNZ’s morning report on 9 March, well before we went into lockdown. Interesting nonetheless. On that day Professor Michael Baker, epidemiologist, from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago said the world had lost the fight to contain the virus. But, he said, New Zealand still had time to contain the virus if it seriously ramped up efforts. If not, he warned, more than 40 percent of New Zealanders risked being infected, as there is potential everywhere for ‘silent transmission.’
I have written before about the value of keeping a journal as an historic chronicle of life as it unfolds, and how these records can provide useful comparisons with a current situation. The morning report item from March is a beautiful representation of that. Thanks to the quick action of our leader and her government and, critically, their ability to get out of the way of their egos and listen to health professionals and follow their advice, we haven’t had a 40% infection rate. And now we are in level three.
It felt like a good day to be alive knowing that many businesses and industries can begin operating again. Coffee can now be purchased from your favourite cafe, dispensed through open windows by the staff inside. I saw that today when I was out, people receiving their goblets of dark liquid, still more sitting on benches, coffee in hand, faces upturned to the sun. It looked so indulgent and novel as though Paris had come to Devonport main street. Parliament is sitting again and that allows for a semblance of normality, the hard core swimmers, dressed in their wetsuits and bonnets, are back in the sea and potential home buyers — that is me — can view property, providing they adhere to the guidelines, the strangest of which is the stipulation to wear ‘socks only’ when viewing.
I was almost at the property when I remembered them. In the rush of returning to the flat I grabbed a pair of bright sunflower yellow socks. Yet they felt celebratory too as I glided on my golden footwear over the wooden floors of the lovely cottage. I spent ages there, taking photographs, while the agent’s bright blue gloved fingers pulled open drawers and cupboards, opened doors, even, obligingly, pulled up the sash windows for me. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to sit on the window seat because you can’t touch any surfaces, and what it would be like curled up on the sofa in the sitting room with the view of the sea out in front… Possibly this home is out of my league but it was the first house I have seen in two and a half years, of not looking actually, just driving about in my car thinking I can’t live there because I couldn’t back then relinquish my attachment to my beloved home, that spoke to me and made me think 'yes I could live there.' And so a process has begun. Later this week I will view another home.
It was a novelty to be out and about doing something different. It wasn't until I had this opportunity to break the pattern that I realised how monotonous, how ‘1984’ George Orwell, these five weeks have seemed - the days with their formlessness, weeks blurring into one another, the holidays that didn’t feel like anything at all. Just this past Anzac day I missed an afternoon mentoring session with a writer. It just went clean out of my head. I hadn’t read his submissions or written down my thoughts, even. I’m lucky he is a gracious person.
I think it won’t be, until this country is on level one and verging on a resumption of normal, that we will allow our true feelings to surface about just how tough and frightening and unreal this time has been. I got a glimpse of that today and the sense of relief brought with it, strangely, more grief than joy.