By Sandy Myhre

For the first few weeks the news about the spread and contagion of Covid19 related only to China.  That’s a long way from us in New Zealand, we reasoned, we’re three islands down the bottom of the South Pacific.  We are isolated.

Across the bay to the mainland by car ferry.

Wrong.  New Zealand’s second largest trading partner is China.  A huge proportion of our exports go there and we import a large percentage of good from there.  Our universities and colleges are filled to brimming with well-paying Chinese students. Our roads, mountains, beaches and forests host thousands of Chinese tourists each year, keen to see this beautiful land.  We most certainly are not immune, our borders are well and truly far more open than we had realised, as we were about to find out.

As Italy and Spain and then other countries began feeling the full effect of the lethal consequences of Covid19, New Zealand became increasingly nervous especially when our Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, announced a four-stage protection plan. 

There was barely a stage one, maybe a few days before stage two was implemented followed a few days later by stage three – which meant a mandatory two metres separation between individuals, the banning of events for more than 50 people, the introduction of hand sanitiser regimen and the acceptance of wearing masks.  Masks!  In New Zealand!  We thought that only happened in Asian countries.  

Two days later and Jacinda Adern announced level four, a state of emergency and the lock down of the country.  We had two days to prepare.  At the same time, all major rugby competition was suspended.  If you know New Zealand you will know in this country life without rugby is as bad as an Australian pub without beer. It’s hard to say what was the most upsetting at first.

I live on a mainland but it’s like an island. The Bay of Islands, literally. Mostly we use a car ferry to get to and from.

One of three beaches within walking distance from my house.

Swan plant at home, it encourages Monarch butterflies.

It is idyllic and I’m very fortunate to live here, but we are not immune.  We are a tourist destination and as the statistics were about to reveal, the majority of Covid 19 cases in New Zealand could be traced to an overseas connection. 

That could mean tourists brought it in and weren’t checked at the border (and for two weeks they were not).  They may not have gone into voluntary isolation when they arrived as they were ‘encouraged’ to do.  It wasn’t then compulsory and many escaped notice.  There were thousands of Kiwis who came back from overseas when they heard about a pending lock down.  None of us realised just how many Kiwis were out of the country at any one time until this happened. 

There was little community contagion – at first. Three days after lock down (24th March) and the first community-caught cases were cropping up. They now continue.  The Bay of Islands recorded two cases in the first week.  A friend’s lovely uncle died in the UK last night from the virus. This makes it real if it wasn’t before.  

The day before lock down I rushed to the supermarket and stocked up.  I didn’t have disposable gloves (they had all sold out) so I wore rubber gloves.  I kept my two-metre distance and did some speed shopping.  In my rush I realised to my horror when I got home that I was about to run out of wine!  Disaster!  But our local little supermarket came to the rescue of people like me.

They issued a notice on social media saying they would deliver.  So, day two of lock down, I phoned in my order and a girl who lives in my street and works at the supermarket delivered it to my front door.  Perfect!  And very welcome.  I shouted my thanks to her through the window of my office where I am now writing this.

I live in a semi-rural part of the country and it’s still warm at this time of the year.  I can walk to the beach every day and have three beaches to choose from.

My street is a small cul-de-sac so I contacted all the neighbours (by letter) and asked them for their phone and email so we could be in touch with each other.

A small street and a close-knit community.

For the first time since I moved here over three years ago, I’ve had phone calls from neighbours introducing themselves.  One neighbour dropped off some spinach plants for my garden (I’m busy planting greens) and gave me some lemons. Yes, I wiped them down first.  Another neighbour is going to fix a broken beam in the carport.  He’s bored, he said, and wants something to do. And we don’t need to be close for any of Preparing for the future, seeds on the sunny side of the property.

I live on my own, but I can nominate a ‘buddy’ to be with me, provided that buddy is the same person throughout. I am very lucky my son lives over the bay.

I am also lucky to belong to Women’s World Car of the Year.  The messages of support and understanding from this marvellous group of women is outstanding.  Thank you so, so much. Kia Kaha (stand strong in Maori).  My thoughts are with you all.  Stay safe.

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