Day seven and the end of the first week in lockdown. Was it the longest week of my life? It was certainly the most challenging, mentally, as my mind struggled to make sense of the vast and drastic changes imposed on our society, in the interests of keeping us safe and slowing the spread of the Coronavirus. My head reels at the impact of the new governmental measures - the loss of civil liberties, the increase in state surveillance, the ramped up presence and power of the police and the health authorities to curtail our activities and control our movements in an attempt to eradicate the virus. A friend passed on a long essay by Charles Eisenstein today. There he raises the questions I had not quite managed to articulate for myself and spoke to the vague unease I have been feeling since lockdown began.
***** My experience today did nothing to quell the sense of disquiet. I have been unwell with a sore throat and a wet cough for two weeks now. Even though my symptoms didn’t quite fit the Covid-19 list, a decision was made, to section off my hosts’ upstairs dwelling from my little home below stairs, well before the lockdown. The cold has never sent me to bed. There have been no headaches or body aches. I’m unsure about a temperature - I don’t have a thermometer. I‘ve felt clammy at times but Auckland humidity can do that. I thought I was improving and then it flared up again yesterday and I decided to phone the Healthline. They instructed me to make an appointment with my family doctor - the session was conducted over the phone. There were scares. I had flown home from Queenstown two days before the symptoms began and a few days later at the mediation I was been exposed to the accountant for the other side. He was not long back from the UK and had a sore throat and although he was immediately isolated in a room downstairs, everyone was jumpy. Midway through the afternoon when his symptoms worsened he was sent away for a test and the building was cleared. It took seven days to get a result. When it arrived it was negative. My doctor taking all these factors into account, including the trip to Queenstown, and the fact that my symptoms have hung around longer than normal, decided on a Covid-19 test. ***** I set off this morning in a state of apprehension. I’d heard that the swabbing of the back of the nose really hurts. As I drove to the car park at AUT Integrated Health in Northcote, I found the streets eerily empty and adjusted my speed accordingly. There is no sense of urgency anymore and I have found that driving slowly is a newfound pleasure. The footpaths on the other hand were humming with life, strings of people walking in single file with large gaps in between, some carrying grocery bags. ***** At the testing station, there were signs in red, yellow and white - COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 with instructions on how to proceed. A smiling security officer stepped forward and indicated where to go. ‘Unwind your window just a fraction,’ he said. At the second checkpoint the nurse in her rippling plastic infection gear, her face mask and visor, told me to turn off the recording of Norwegian Jazz on my car stereo. Her rapidfire questioning began - name in full, date of birth, address etc. They took my car registration number! ‘Why do you need that?’ I asked. ‘Are you going to give it to Special Forces?’ The answer was evasive. ‘It’s just so we can keep in touch.’ But the real purpose, I know, is to pass it on to the police so my whereabouts can be tracked should I break the self-isolation conditions. In the midst of the interrogation she noticed my car warrant and said, ‘They’re going to waive overdue warrants during the lockdown.’ But I had put my car through its warrant only two days before the lockdown. Her comment made me doubt its validity. I checked and the sticker definitely said 30 March 2021. ***** At the third and final point I parked my car in a kind of plastic tunnel and waited, windows up, car off, for the medical team to swoop. The doctor, Jarred was his name, was gentle and reassuring. It did hurt, intensely, as he rolled the sharp swab around the structure at the back of my nose. Ugh. It didn’t last long though and it wasn’t as bad as childbirth but it was more painful than a smear test. Now I sit back and wait for the results. ***** On my return home along Aorangi Drive to Esmond Road I drank in the views of the sea and the city, not knowing when I would be driving this way again. I love this particular view. Always I feel my heart rising when I drive in the opposite direction, rounding the curve past the mangroves heading for the harbour bridge, with the watery vista in front and the city like a mirage floating on the far edge. Today the water was calm as a millpond and glassy. Hurriedly, at the lights, I took a photo through my car window, but couldn’t quite capture the warm hues in the long reflections cast by skyscrapers, the splashes of pink in amongst the pastel pale blues. I will hold it in my mind instead.