Coronavirus: we’re in foreign territory – life in lockdown begins

OPINION: Four, three, two, one – lockdown.

As of 11.59pm on Wednesday, life for most New Zealanders has changed dramatically. Many of the routines of daily life that make it easier, richer and quicker just fell away.

The overarching theme of the time is to stay at home, unless you have got a good reason for going out, such as essential work, getting groceries or seeking medical help.

Home will be centre of most people’s universe in the next four weeks and staying there will be the most useful thing people can do to stop Covid-19 spreading. The mantra of the hour is “Act like you have it”.

An almost deserted Willis Street in Wellington in the lead-up to lockdown.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
An almost deserted Willis Street in Wellington in the lead-up to lockdown.

Overseas countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, China and Spain are days or weeks into lockdown, without chaos erupting or a national revolt. People have worked through shock, panic and acceptance.

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The good news is that many normal activities can carry on, but they will be different in ways that make them seem abnormal.

A trip to the corner dairy is still allowed but only one customer is permitted in the dairy at one time.

You can still go to the supermarket but expect workers to treat you like a hideous virus and potential threat. In the aisles or when queuing at the till, you will need to keep a distance of 1.5m from the next person. If you are a huggy-type person, forget it.

New Zealand is in lockdown, joining other countries including the United Kingdom, Italy, China and Spain.
LAWRENCE SMITH
New Zealand is in lockdown, joining other countries including the United Kingdom, Italy, China and Spain.

Whether your local butcher or green grocer will have to shut their doors is still unclear. Many firewood suppliers have switched to delivery only.

Work around the home and on your property can continue but if you haven’t got your DIY supplies by now, you might have to be resourceful. DIY outlets have been told not to serve general customers but they can sell to tradies.

If an elderly relative or friend needs groceries you can drop them off but again distance is required.

Driving is still permitted and some garages will still be open to do Warrant of Fitness checks and repairs. Destinations have dwindled. The Department of Conservation has closed huts, campsites and information centres.

“Hunting and tramping in the backcountry means people will not be following the government’s directive to stay at home and only travel or leave your home when it is necessary,” DOC’s website says.

Public transport will be free but available only to either workers in essential sectors, or those making essential trips, such as to a supermarket or health services.

A novelty for some people will be the need to cook their own food. Takeaway outlets and uber eats are off the menu and cafes, bars and restaurants must shut down. Meals-on-Wheels will carry on.

The streets will be quiet which should be good for essential workers still commuting and emergency vehicles. Police will be out looking for rule breakers so prepare to be quizzed. As they say in Spain – no hay excusas cabellero. You might be fined or arrested and have to appear in court. Courts are still running, by the way.

With everyone at home, residential burglaries should see a big drop but commercial properties will be at risk.

Domestic appliances won’t take a holiday from breaking down but getting them fixed could be difficult. Fortunately laundromats are allowed to say open.

Your town or city will feel dead. Home will be a different story. With the schools closed and only so many able to provide virtual learning, it will be like the school holidays although more intense. Young people who have left home and are flatting may have moved home to keep their costs down and, of course, to support their parents. Fuller houses could mean greater tensions but things will settle down in most households.

Fortunately it’s autumn and the weather invites outdoor activities. People can still go for a walk or run as long as its solitary and a distance of 2m is kept from others.

As you wait out the lockdown, more Covid-19 cases will be notified. It will get worse before its gets better. We will soon know if lockdown is working.

You will be getting a lot of advice about how to survive lockdown. It will be along the lines of don’t panic because you will have food, warmth, security and medical help if you need it.

Most of the advice will be obvious and common sense. Like being kind and tolerant. But you’d do that anyway, right?

Pocwifi, your best travel companion wish you have a wonderful trip.

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