At 10.13pm when both phones in the household go off with a note that neither of us recognises or has chosen, we know it’s not good news. That cold hand, the one that’s been around a lot the last few days, hovers over me, the hooded claw from Scooby Doo. I shiver, despite that I am sitting right by the heater. Perspective is the word that rings around my head as I read the alert from a number that isn’t in my contacts and is highlighted by a yellow warning triangle. If there is anything to put the loss of your computer hard drive firmly into the ‘not really important’ category it’s the re-emergence of a global pandemic in your own back yard: like The Terminator, Covid is back. Words I hoped never to have to write. For over 100 days we have had new cases only from overseas, all caught at the border, and no community transmission. Until now.
We were fools to think it wouldn’t be. But we were optimistic fools and the mood in NZ this morning is sombre. We weren’t complacent; we weren’t smug about our Covid free status. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t realise how lucky we are, who doesn’t appreciate that they are here and not somewhere else where the virus is still a dangerous part of everyday life or, worse, rages unchecked. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t scan overseas news hoping that we will soon see happy stories from other countries, who doesn’t wince with pain reading the daily stats from Victoria. We all know that there but for the grace of some unknown deity – or, more likely, our government – go we. But we still hoped that it wouldn’t happen.
I think of the box of face masks that Neil brought home only a few days ago. I haven’t opened it, and he’s gone into the office this morning without one. There is, as yet, no compulsion to wear a mask – we will be at alert level 2 from midday, which means social distancing and ‘wear a mask if you feel you need to’, but otherwise we can more or less continue with our lives. Not so much in Auckland, heading into level 3, the city closed to non-residents ‘until Friday at noon’. Does anyone think it will all be over then? The only change I foresee is a tightening of restrictions, not a loosening.
My heart breaks for those already suffering, those who have lost their jobs, families who have lost their income, businesses who struggled through the first lockdown now forced to close again, the chance of re-opening diminishing with every day.
No one wants to go back into a lockdown of any sort, but if Covid has taught us anything it is that Kiwis are a team and will work together again as we did before. ‘Bloody Covid’, says my friend. But she, like the rest of us, will sigh and accept it, do what she has to do. Outside, traffic flashes past and I remember how quiet it was during lockdown, how lovely to be able to open a window and not be assailed by the clatter of construction. I dislike the sounds, long for peace, but I’ll take noise any day over a return to a quiet forced by another strict lockdown.
As the marvellous Dr Siouxsie Wiles says: We’ve done this before; we can do it again. It’s just that we all hoped we wouldn’t have to.