N.Z in lock down: DAY 5

Yesterday was DAY 5 in lock down as New Zealand tries to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Over the past few weeks we have heard a lot about how this pandemic might play out, both in New Zealand and abroad. We have heard from people involved in the race to find a cure or at least some medicine that will cripple COVID19 about how a task that normally takes anywhere between a year and 2 1/2 years to a decade, will try to be achieved in 18 months. Others have talked about modelling the potential scenarios depending on a nation’s response to the pandemic.

I want to talk about how beating COVID19 is a bit like stopping a big train in a rush. You will be aware that hitting the brakes on a fully laden train that might be doing anywhere between 50km/h and 90km/h depending on whether it is in an urban area or a rural area, where the speed limits are different. The driver sees something that requires the train to be brought as quick a stop as possible. A freight train moving at speed needs about 1.5-2.0 kilometres to slow down. In northern Christchurch a northbound train that is doing 50km/h hits the breaks at the Fendalton Road crossing will cross it, the Wroxton and Glandovey Road level crossings before coming to a stop somewhere between Glandovey Road and Wairakei Road. That a distance of about 1.0km and would probably trigger the alarms for Wairakei Road.

It is similar with COVID19. You will have noticed we are locked down and the borders are closed to everyone except New Zealand permanent residents and citizens. However despite this attempt to apply the brakes, the number of cases continues to rise steadily and will continue to do so for the next several days. One estimate is that the rise in COVID19 cases will continue unabated until about 06 April 2020. If we are on schedule – which at this stage New Zealand is not (more on that later) – it will then take a few days to taper off completely before starting to slow down. It may be mid-April before it starts to slow down. The slow down likewise will take awhile before the COVID19 train comes to a stop. I suspect if mid-April is the point at which it starts to slow down, it might be early-mid May before it comes to a stop. It will go right through Easter, A.N.Z.A.C. Day and possibly reach Mothers Day before it stops.

Except that we want the freight train to get going again when the track is clear of whatever made the driver stop in the first place. COVID19 is different. We want this train to stop and stay stopped. Permanently.

New Zealand is not on schedule. Having not been in such a situation in modern times I did not fully expect it to be either. Our cases, if I had to guess, will not stop rising completely until about the end of the week that Easter Monday falls in. Sometime between then and A.N.Z.A.C. Day, when the Government will review the lock down, they will start falling, but will need to come to a complete stop. This will be a period with no new cases having been announced for several days at least to create a buffer between the last cases being announced and the last people being treated. I anticipate that will be in early May and possibly as late as Mothers Day (10 May).

But when I look at what is going on in Europe and the U.S., I think New Zealand is doing very well for the most part. For the very most part people want to get this over and done with. Going hard and going early was the right call, and when other countries are probably still struggling with it, hopefully we will be able to go to the pub and celebrate a hard job well done.

Before focusing on the long economic recovery.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 4

Yesterday was DAY 4 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to tackle the COVID19 pandemic.

As the reality of lock down makes itself known, I am sure I am not the only person wondering what happens when the Government decides there is no good justification for persisting with the lock down. With an economy ground to a halt, and most probably by then have shed tens of thousands of jobs across the board, getting back on our feet will not be a walk in the park.

There will be many challenges. Bars, restaurants, cafes, butcheries, bakeries, eateries, and even service stations will have to wait whilst the chains that supplied their edible goods get re-established. Those establishments whose performance was marginal and might have struggled to stay open over the quieter winter months, this might be a death blow. The four weeks that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said we will be locked down for is most probably a conservative estimate and 5-6 weeks is probably more likely.

But the demand will surely be there as soon as people have good reason to think that COVID19 is gone and that it is safe to start venturing out. I am in that year group where a huge number of people I know are having 40th birthdays and the several who found their plans for a big party and night on the town put on ice by COVID19 will be wanting their fun. Fortunately I am in December, so by the time my birthday rolls around, New Zealand should be fully open again. The organizers of all the many weddings and hens and stag nights that would have been on, and which have postponed, will be looking at options for rescheduling them.

But it will not be just the hospitality industry that is looking for a rapid revival. The construction sector will be looking for a shot in the arm to get things moving as well. A few minutes walk from my place is a two story rest home complex being constructed and I think the first stage is meant to be opening in June – I doubt it will be ready before August now. The Christchurch Convention Centre called Te Pae, and the Metro Sports facility are now both behind schedule.

The Government is promising a massive infrastructure splurge to get things moving again. Treasurer, Grant Robertson has promised to open the wallet for a substantial shot in the arm, on top of the billions that have been already allocated to supporting workers whose employers have shut and assistance for those with no work. The measure is one that I support, but I want the decision makers to think boldly about green infrastructure such as hydrogen plants instead of petroleum or diesel facilities, looking at e-waste recovery facilities and waste to energy plants.

However it is the tourism industry that is in the worst shape and it might well be the tourist industry that is still in the worst shape even after the economy is moving. Because of its high reliance on tourists from other countries, which might not have been so proactive as New Zealand in shutting down COVID19, tourism operators, small businesses will be slower to get back on their feet. Businesses such as the bakeries in Geraldine and Fairlie in south Canterbury, which are among the biggest employers in those towns will have taken substantial hits and most probably laid off staff. With everyone instructed to stay home there, will also be no case for tourism operators working, and those with expensive assets such as helicopters and light aircraft, which cost substantial dollars for every hour they are grounded, may fold.

And finally there is the service industry. The sector supplying services to the other sector – in the case of my work, rental cars – is severely restricted in terms of what it can do. Whilst a few rental cars may be required by Government agencies for official business, its lock down period is unlikely to immediately end just because the restrictions have been lifted. My guess is that I might not have work for 6 weeks/early May.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 3

Yesterday was DAY 3 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to beat the COVID19 pandemic.

Last night I was wondering what the Police would be doing with themselves. Friday and Saturday nights are normally among their busiest nights of the week as they deal with drunks, fights, assaults, disorderly behaviour – all the usual problems that go with drinking alcohol. With all of the bars, restaurants, night clubs, cafes, take away shops, fast food places and so forth shuttered until sometime in late April at the earliest, I am sure they will be looking forward to an associated drop in alcohol fuelled crime in the usual hot spots.

I am however certain that a couple weeks from now, with any novelty that might have existed at the start of this lock down having thoroughly worn off, that there will probably be an increase in cases of Police being called to people’s homes. There will be an unfortunate few whose ability to control themselves and not lash out at their spouses, at their kids will be fracturing. No doubt there will also be more tense moments where normal debates become full blown arguments.

At home it was pretty quiet yesterday. A cold and overcast sky with a brisk southwesterly wind pushing the along the odd shower along meant that it was Christchurch’s first truly indoors kind of day in the COVID19 lock down. I cleaned out my wardrobe – or at least tried before realizing the extent of a previous attempt was much more comprehensive than I remembered it being and there was actually very little to do. For fun, and just as a way of help away the time, I have also started an Excel spreadsheet recording the daily statistics from the Ministry of Health COVID19 update.

I continued my exercise, albeit taking a shorter route and being out for about 25-30 minutes, as opposed to about 70 minutes on Thursday. Despite the colder weather, I saw more people out for exercise than I did moving cars. I believe that as long as people maintain the 2 metre spacing between themselves and others, go by themselves or with their “bubble” – whoever is living with you – without stopping to talk to anyone, it is quite okay to walk, jog, run, bike.

In the next day or so I will finish my assignment for University. I will also do my first study in nearly 2 weeks, having had most of the last fortnight upended like everyone else by a combination of COVID19 announcements and stressful days at work.

NZ in lock down: DAY 2

This is DAY 2 of New Zealand in lock down, as we try to fight back against COVID19. I want to start by reflecting on a few things I saw, heard and did yesterday. I also want to acknowledge the many people who are having birthdays, meant to be having/attending weddings, organizing funerals for loved ones – I have a cousin who had her birthday yesterday and is celebrating in her bubble.

Yesterday was actually surprisingly nice, both in terms of the weather and in terms of things I could do and did do. My bubble is myself, my parents and the gold fish that we have – and if you really want to get technical, a beehive on the property. Two other bubbles exist down our right-of-way, which has three properties. The bubbles stay in their respective fortresses.

I went out walking for exercise and whilst going past a park, noted that the playground had been taped up. The two people in the people – a dad and his son – were kicking a football to each other. Whilst walking I wondered about how realistic the restrictions were and I suspect that there will be a few people looking at creative ways of getting around them or simply applying some common knowledge. A walker, out for a brisk walk might cover several kilometres – I did about 7-8 in yesterday’s walk – which is not exactly staying in the neighbourhood. But at the same time not a single person I saw yesterday was stopping for anyone and all as far as possible were observing the two metre rule. There were walkers, joggers, runners, skate boarders, and cyclists out yesterday and that made me wonder watching the speed that some of them were going, whether it is – provided that they do not stop and observe the 2 metre rule – realistic to expect them to stay in their neighbourhoods?

Of my study? That will be waiting another couple of days. I have an assignment that was due on 25 March, which has been pushed back to late April. I reached a compromise with myself and decided that I will aim to be all done with it by 1 April.

There are people who were meant to be getting married in the next few weeks, who have had to cancel the happiest days of their lives. Wedding dresses made; venue booked, catering and function venue sorted and now we have COVID19 as a gate crasher. There were people who were meant to be attending weddings, which might well have been the highlight of their social life for the year who have had to watch the gate crasher wreck it all.

I also want to acknowledge those who have lost loved ones, and who were hoping for a nice send off for their friend/relative/colleague.

All I can say to you and others who have had to cancel major events, is I hope when COVID19 is banished, that you are all able to salvage something from the mess. I can actually see, once the social restrictions on interaction are lifted, a brief, but explosive boom in demand for such services as all of that priceless face time gets caught up on.

But for now, as we tread through some of the grimmest times in memory, beating COVID19 is the only thing to do.


NZ in lock down: DAY 1

Over the next 30 days I will attempt to write a bit of a diary of my time in lock down in New Zealand. Some of the entries might be quite short. It will depend on what does/not get done on that day. Others will have reflection on what means to be a New Zealander, and how this impacts the country. I will also be discussing how I think the COVID19 emergency *may* play out.

On 25 March at 2359 hours New Zealand entered a LEVEL 4 lock down nation wide.

Everything that does not qualify as an essential service must close. People may leave the house for essential tasks such as going to the supermarket, going to the pharmacy and going for exercise. But everyone must remain 2 metres apart. Police are making sure that no one is out doing non-essential stuff. Every day at 1200 or 1300 hours, the Director General Ashley Bloomfield gives an update on the medical situation followed by Police Commissioner Mike Bush with an update on police enforcement.

And so, DAY 1 of – I will make it 30 because I understand that the earliest that the government will begin reviewing restrictions is 25 April 2020 – began quietly. I work full time for a rental car firm (Avis Budget Group) and I am a part time postgraduate student studying planning extra murally from Massey University. My work is on ice until 25 April at the least, though if the Government in the course of conducting its business needs rental cars, we may be asked to supply a few. That might mean a skeleton staff on a couple of days during that time being asked to come to work, and as a senior wash bay staff member, there is an off chance that might include me.

Of my study? I did have an assignment due on 25 March 2020, but that has been pushed back nearly a month. Massey University and other institutions like Universities of Canterbury, Auckland, Victoria of Wellington, Waikato, Lincoln and Otago, have all amended their academic schedules. This comes after they were made to realize in the wake of last week where thousands of student lives were upended by government announcements that sticking to their original timetables was simply not an option. I am actually very lucky, living with my parents that I have few of the problems that many other students have, such as one who owns a small business and was losing sleep over the prospect she might lose it.