Here’s my personal recount of my experience during COVID-19. I write this so I can look back on it in the future and think wow, that sh*t was cray. I am so, so pleased it never happened again.
I arrived in New Zealand (I live in Brisbane) on Wed the 11th March after visiting Gundagai and Wagga Wagga for a Wiley work trip. I’d been away four days already and had four days planned to stay in NZ for my brother Luke’s 25th birthday.
I flew over with a carry-on, mainly full of clothes suitable for visiting construction sites and manufacturing businesses. I threw in two options for an outfit for Luke’s party and dinner and that was about the extent of it. Boy did I come to regret that choice of traveling light in the following weeks. I was so smug with myself for my efficient packing at the time. Anywho, I digress.
There had been talk of COVID-19 for some time before I arrived in New Zealand, although it was mainly overseas. I didn’t consider that my travel could be in jeopardy. I really had no suspicion as to the way it would so quickly escalate, sweep us all off our feet and turn our little bubbles upside down, with locks on them. We had Luke’s dinner and party and the news started heating up a bit. On the Sunday Luke flew back to Australia. Our family property is about two and a half hours drive from the closest international airport of Wellington. That afternoon it was announced that self-isolation was going to be bought in for anyone entering the country from midnight. I tried my absolute best to fly into Australia before midnight to avoid the isolation period but there were no possible flights. I was due to fly back that Tuesday morning and was absolutely devastated to realise it would mean I would have to miss one of my best friend’s hens party in Melbourne that I had been organising. Wiley advised me I could work from NZ and I decided to cancel my flight back, to ride it out for a few weeks in NZ. Little did I know. Around then is when everything started to fall rapidly apart.
I own a marketing and business consultancy and the majority of my clients are in food and hospitality. It was announced that Australia would be closing all restaurants and cafes for dine-in, only take-away would be acceptable with special safety procedures in place. I supported my clients (and other cafes I had worked through with this blog) as they went through hell trying to keep their businesses open, working out how they could survive, what it would mean for their staff – there were no stimulus packages then. I did what I could for the ones that could open for takeaway with marketing support. I have been working massive hours. I’ve lost large amounts of money in contracts in my business (approx 30-50% of my usual business income for the year now) but compared to what these people were going through, it felt very trivial and I was grateful to still have other income.
Stress set in for everyone with the fear of the unknown.
My friends started to hear rumors they might lose their jobs or their pay be cut. There were rumors about country borders closing. We quickly arranged for Luke to fly back from Melbourne and set him up in the paddock with a tent and a double amenity tent with toilet and shower so he could self isolate for 14 days. He was eventually tested after a week as he had put on his entry form to NZ that he lived with a vulnerable person and while he tested negative, he had to stay in isolation for the rest of the 14 days as the tests can return false negatives and we couldn’t risk it.
Why couldn’t we risk it? Our Dad has a degenerative chest disease and he is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. We have, and still do, take every precaution we can to keep him and us safe. We take it very seriously. I also have a heart condition (POTS) that puts me slightly more at risk.
When I arrived self-isolation hadn’t come in. We had a party with friends for Luke’s birthday. Later that week it was suggested that anyone who had returned from overseas in the past 14 days should self-isolate. I stopped going anywhere public from then and I only saw the people who I had already spent time with, after checking with them that they were comfortable to be around me first.
The day it was announced lockdown was being introduced into NZ, Mum and I were out shopping (I was the driver) at the plant nursery before we went to get groceries and to the chemist. We were going on our own kind of mini lockdown. I tried to call Dad but the lines were so busy I couldn’t get a signal. We attempted to go to the supermarket only to find cars parking blocks away (we live in a town, plenty of parking) to get in. I ended up dropping Mum off at the door and circling around while I waited. Minutes later she was back at the car – the mayhem that had ensued meant she didn’t want to be in the supermarket. We got petrol and the shop had already shut up with people lining up to fill up their tanks. We went to the chemist, grabbed what we needed and headed home. That was the last time I left home, which was approx two weeks ago, just before lockdown which came in two weeks ago at midnight tomorrow.
What does lockdown mean? Well, it’s fairly self-explanatory. Stay the f*&k at home. We are at stage 4 which is the highest emergency alert and means there has been community transmission of the virus. The supermarkets and chemists stay open but with measures in place to prevent any COVID-19 community transmission. This includes only 50 people in a supermarket at once, distancing while shopping and at check out, as well as plastic guards between the server and the customer. I will attach the image in the gallery of how the government communicated the alert levels. There’s also only post for essential services so my online shopping habit got kicked in the butt fairly quickly and replaced with how are we going to get the essentials without heading into town. Thankfully, my brother, Daniel is in town and can pick up things or receive deliveries for us as many don’t deliver rurally.
I feel very grateful to be in NZ with my family and to be still working part-time for Wiley remotely as well as my RMH Consulting clients. We are safe and we are together. There is, of course, parts of me that yearn to be in Australia (although not in lockdown in my tiny apartment) and I wish I packed a bigger suitcase with clothes and books and tech etc but at the end of the day, it could be so much worse and I am thankful. I am loving picking, eating and cooking vegetables from the garden and I have definitely consumed more wine than normal! I still make sure I work out every day and eat well though and I get properly dressed every day for work.
This blog covers to about the start of lockdown, so I’ll continue on from that another time, sharing what life is like in lockdown on the farm. The excitement of produce arriving and the mail! You wouldn’t believe it! Plus the process of not touching anything that arrives for three days… and not knowing when I can get a flight back to Australia. All that next time.
I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well.
Please note; I am incredibly grateful to the essential workers and front-liners who keep our nations going. This is a tough time for so many people and I aim to cause no offense, this is a personal recount to look back on when COVID-19 is something kids learn about in history.