Rotorua Daily Post

Lockdown anniversar­y brings tough memories

- Jo Raphael

Covid-19. The deadly, viral respirator­y disease that caused the whole world to come to a screeching halt — we are still suffering the effects of the whiplash.

There have been 6,823,199 deaths worldwide attributed to Covid as of writing this.

In New Zealand, 2586 people have died of it (or it was a contributi­ng factor).

Today marks the third anniversar­y of the first lockdown.

At 11.59pm on March 25, 2020, we became isolated not only from the rest of the world but from each other.

We were in Alert Level 4 and a National State of Emergency was declared.

Non-essential workplaces shut down.

I vividly remember TV news reports of a deserted Auckland CBD, with office workers heading home carrying desktop computers and monitors.

I did exactly the same thing. Kitchen tables, bedrooms, hobby rooms, and lounge rooms all became our workspaces.

Usually congested highways, motorways, and roads were empty.

If you weren’t considered essential you were confined to your home, allowed out for daily exercise, doctors’ visits or grocery shopping.

Our work colleagues were just faces on a Zoom call or voices at the other end of the phone.

Families were separated. Kiwis elsewhere on the globe were scrambling to get home before the borders snapped shut.

The daily 1pm briefings from the Parliament­ary pulpit became mustsee TV.

Nobody knew exactly what was going on but test, test, test we were told. Stay at least 2m away from anyone outside our bubble.

We complied. They were scary times for us.

But testing and isolation were the only tools we had to keep our country safe.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, the disease was taking hold.

Hospitals became overwhelme­d, mass graves were being dug. We watched on helplessly as overworked hospital staff battled day in and day out to save people.

“Stay at home,” they tearfully pleaded on their Tiktoks and Instagrams, with bruised faces caused by the PPE they were constantly wearing.

We were lucky, our country’s geographic­al isolation gave us a head start. We could watch how other countries responded and how we could do things.

During this time there were some highs and lows.

Little Armani-john was born on January 30, 2020, 15 weeks early and weighing 952 grams. He was still in hospital when lockdown happened.

"We complied. They were scary times for us."

His mum, Stacey Brell, had to leave her 8-week-old baby boy in the hospital, so she could care for her other children, while her partner had to work.

Brell had a heartwrenc­hing choice but knew her baby was in safe hands.

But it must have been so difficult not to be able to see him every day.

Today, Armani-john is still battling the effects of being born prematurel­y, but he is thriving.

Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. It’s still in our community, it’s still infecting people.

However, because of the nationwide vaccinatio­n campaign which saw more than 95 per cent of the population immunised against Covid-19, we had another tool in our belt to fight the virus.

We’ve learned a lot about ourselves over the past three years.

We are still recovering but we now have the experience and a framework in place to keep us safe.

No one ever wants to see the return of lockdowns, but they kept us safe while we fought to keep the disease from taking hold.

It’s so good to see visitors coming back and things returning to normal.

We’re slowly trying to get back on our feet but it’s still a fight — in my view, this pandemic has changed the world forever.

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