These islands evaded the Covid bullet for a long time, access to the country controlled and any incursion stamped out, mostly before it left managed isolation. Then Omicron arrived, pushing its way through the border like a Russian tank. It took advantage of being the only overseas tourist and romped through cities and across mountains like an influencer armed with an iPhone.
Now we join the rest of the world, seeing case numbers blast into the stratosphere, deaths much higher than anyone is comfortable with (although we’re still amongst the lowest in the western world and, per capita, way below the UK figure). Within the space of a few days of Omicron starting its Kiwi road trip, we doubled our case numbers and deaths. We’re told we are over the worst of it, that the peak has passed, but we’re still seeing thousands more cases a day.
Yesterday a friend became a statistic. I’d planned a morning walk with his wife, also my friend, until she texted to say she thought we’d better postpone as someone he works closely with had Covid. I was disappointed; we had a lot to catch up on. Then he came home early and I got another text.
She and I are booked on a one day course in Whanganui on Saturday and have both been looking forward to it. Now I shall be going alone and my friend admits to feeling anxious. I understand. I am a farther distance from her to the situation but her news caused a wave of unease to ripple through me, a feeling of something being amiss, out of place, that I was unable to name. Then I realised: it’s the feeling of being out of control, not having any say in what is happening, the knowledge that something else is in charge of your movements for the next seven days.
As Omicron has swept over these islands restrictions have been loosened, which seems strange in one way but in another makes sense – if all contacts of cases were to isolate as they had to previously the entire country would grind to a halt. Neil spent Sunday with our friend – hopefully before he became infectious – so would have been told to stay home alone. Now he just needs to watch for symptoms and get a test if any turn up.
I’m a worrier by nature so I worry about my friends. He is always busy, always doing something; she, like me, loves the outdoors and getting out for a walk to refresh her mind and clear her brain. They will cope, I know (they have a good stock of ‘liquids’, she assures me) and they are in one of the best places to do so, with many willing neighbours and friends to deliver essentials and even treats to their door. (I said weeks ago that if I get ill I want to do so in Ohakune rather than Wellington – I know here I would never starve.)
This pandemic has been kind to me. In the UK, where it has wreaked havoc, most of my family and friends have avoided it. (The exception being my niece, a nurse, who thankfully had a fairly mild dose and has no lasting ill effects.) How this has happened I don’t know, but I’m very grateful for it, especially for my immunocompromised father. I suppose it was only a matter of time before it came close to home.
So, to my friend, who currently has mild symptoms and is spending a lot of time watching TV, I hope it gets no worse. And please don’t share with your wife. See you on the other side.