Life under lockdown in New Zealand amid COVID-19

By Laura Zheng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 8, 2020
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Laura Zheng, a copy editor at [Photo/]

Editor's note: Laura Zheng, a copy editor at, describes life under lockdown in New Zealand amid the COVID-19 outbreak after returning for what was originally meant to be a three-week holiday.

During the Spring Festival, I came home to what was a seemingly typical summer in New Zealand. Kiwis were out and about celebrating the long hours of sunshine by sunbathing and swimming in the ocean, hiking through the forests, and chatting away in cafes and restaurants up and down the country. 

When I first arrived home, family and friends naturally wanted to come to visit, but I told them to stay away since I needed to self-isolate for two weeks. They didn't understand and asked: "If you're sick, wouldn't you know?" or "If you aren't sick, wouldn't a few days be enough?" I wasn't required to, but I decided to self-isolate for the safety of those around me. During this time, my throat felt tickly and I had a headache, but, despite my trepidation and overthinking, they dissipated within a few days. 

At first, life back home was like a drag. I just lay on the couch counting down the days until I could declare myself "a healthy human being." The 14th day slowly, but surely, arrived, and I was extremely relieved that I was in good health. Yet, I thought to myself, will it stay this way? I'd have to wait and see.

Shortly thereafter, Air New Zealand cancelled all direct flights to China, and I was left with no easy way to return to Beijing, where I work. Furthermore, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs temporarily suspended entry to China by all foreign nationals from March 28, 2020. As my trip home would become a little longer than expected, I ventured out to buy a few necessities. I hopped into my car and drove to different stores on a quest for face masks, disinfectants and food supplies. At this point, daily necessities were plentiful, so I just picked up a few items. However, I noticed that face masks and hand sanitizer were becoming scarcer as I spent the whole day driving around just to get my hands on some. 

At this point, COVID-19 hadn't yet reached New Zealand's shores, but I warned family and friends not to go out to social places or dine out anyway. But most people weren't ready to give up their freedom just yet. They had heard about COVID-19 in other parts of the world, but for them, it was completely removed from their daily lives. 

Unfortunately, things were about to change. On Feb. 28, New Zealand's first coronavirus case was confirmed, which resulted in people around the country flocking to supermarkets to stock up, emptying the shelves as if there was going to be a zombie apocalypse. Meanwhile, I was working from home, editing articles and transcripts from press conferences back in China over 6,400 miles away. I started recording voiceovers from my makeshift studio: climbing inside my wardrobe, and locking myself in the dark to get a crisp recording.

On March 25, life in New Zealand changed as we entered uncharted waters and the government declared a formal State of Emergency, which moved us to Alert Level 4 for the first time in history. All New Zealanders not working in essential services were required to self-isolate at home for four weeks, with people only allowed out to go for walks in local parks, get groceries and visit pharmacies for essentials. 

New Zealand was predicted to see a considerable increase in cases around 10 days after the current lockdown was announced. Today is day 14 of the lockdown, so I have decided to make do with the supplies that I already have and get creative turning everyday household items into daily necessities since I won't be leaving the house. 

My eating habits have changed during lockdown. I find myself getting excited for fruit to ripen on the trees in my back yard, so I can pick and enjoy them. However, I've also found myself having to compete with the birds for the best fruit – something I haven't ever done before. 

Aside from my new companions, the birds, isolation feels isolating and I seem to have lost track of time. Last Saturday, I had no idea the week had already ended until I turned on my computer at 8:30 am to report for work and noticed it was the weekend.

I do find myself worrying though as I have family members who work in New Zealand's essential industries. When they come home, I help hose them down with disinfectant and sanitize all their gear, including their keys, phones and bags, before they head for the shower. 

Even as life has changed dramatically for all Kiwis, it's great to see that New Zealand, as an island country, is putting in a collective effort to stay home and lower the risk for everyone. As the Maori saying goes, kia kaha, or, "stay strong."

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