As with many places in the world we've been watching as the corona virus pandemic unfolds. A little over a week ago it was NZs turn to be hit.
We've had a pretty average summer down this way, but autumn has finally cleared up and Saturday week ago (the 14th) was a stunning day. I was down at the bach so got out for an enjoyable little surf with a half dozen other people including a father and his kids. It was pretty much a perfect day down at Kakanui but since then though the world has started to change...
Roll forward a few days and our cases of corona virus started to climb, 6, 11, 23... etc. On Saturday our new classification were implemented, Alert level 2. It wasn't to last.
A few weeks back I returned to Oranga Tamariki (Ministry of Children) after having last worked as a care and protection social worker 12 years ago. As we are deemed an essential service we will be working though the crisis and so Monday morning was a series of meetings to determine how to implement the changes required. Lunchtime yesterday and the announcement came thought that we were going to alert level 3 and we will implement alert level 4 by Wednesday (tomorrow). Level 4 is a complete shut down, only essential workers to be at work and there will be travel restrictions, so I headed down to the bach after work last night to get some bits and pieces and close it down for the next few weeks. As my wife and I headed south out of town we encountered a southerly change and storm sweeping up the country which brought rain and hail. I fitting metaphor for the days ahead me thinks.
My wife is a midwife so she too is going to be working though the next few weeks, doing all she can along with the other health professionals. In my office we are starting by having half staff at work, half working from home each day and no doubt this will change in time as the situation unfolds.
I’ve been thinking about my grandmother who was born in 1899 and died in 1993. She lived through the Great War, the flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and World War Two. Four events of epic, world changing, proportions. Until now I’ve really not been able to comprehend an event of such magnitude happening in my lifetime, the Christchurch earthquake being probably the closest such event here, though localised and affecting only a small part of the country. And yet in the past four weeks have started to witness what may be our generations equivalent of those events. We are in the middle of a maelstrom of historic proportions which is affecting everyone on this planet.
Right now about 20% of the world's population in in lockdown. Something like that seemed impossible a few short weeks ago, international travel curtailed etc. Here businesses have closed, international flights all but ended and domestic travel too being heavily restricted. I, like many people, was a bit blasé about this pandemic only a few short weeks ago but have watched it unfold with a growing sense of dread and like many am hoping that our health system won't be overwhelmed.
The next four weeks will probably decide how we cope with the crisis and whether or not we can come though unscathed. I really hope we’ve not left it too late but can’t help but think that maybe we have been two weeks too slow in our response here in NZ, I guess time will tell. Hopefully self isolating will allow us as a country to flatten the curve, so health services don’t get swamped, but even so it is going to be a tough next few weeks or months ahead.
This event and the way governments are reacting is unprecedented. I think in time we will look back at be world BEFORE March 2020 and the new world that will exist post March 2020. This event, yet to really strike us, is potentially that, our generations Great War or Spanish flu pandemic. None of us know how our countries will come through this but for many of us around the world it is time to hunker down and to try and weather the storm.