New Zealand has been a quarantined nation for over a year. The ‘Go Hard, Go Early’ strategy of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kept most New Zealanders safe from the ravages of Covid-19. Cases and deaths have been some of the lowest in the world, and outside of a lockdown between later March and early June of 2020, New Zealanders have lead a normal life, albeit one with closed borders to all but returning citizens.
The scourge of Covid19 has largely been avoided in New Zealand but the country has suffered. Tourism and hospitality took a huge economic downturn, and there are the psychological effects of being an isolated nation cut off not only from visitors but from family and friends abroad. While the rest of the world suffered the ravages of death and political turmoil, New Zealand carried on as a nation outside of the storm in a land where the Great Pandemic did not exist. We were alone but we were safe… and then the Delta variant broke through our barriers around the 17th of August 2021.
New Zealand is currently in a Level 4 lockdown (stay at home, only essential services open) and once again trying to stamp out the virus. The Elimination Strategy is a much bigger challenge this time around as the Delta variant is not the Covid19 that was driven from our shores in 2020. Add to that, only ~20% of New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated. Should Delta get loose in New Zealand, it will be devastating.
It’s early days now and like many around the world, we are tired. Pandemic fatigue. Tired of restrictions and uncertainty, tired of being told what to do, tired from being shutoff from the world, tired of worrying about our jobs and what the next day will bring— but we’ve never faced the true horrors of Covid19 either. Our hospitals have never been overrun. Hardly any of us have lost friends or family members to the virus. We’ve never stacked bodies into refrigerated trucks. We’ve never had to burn corpses on our streets. We have no mass graves. We’ve watched the world’s suffering from afar and held fast to our faith in Fortress New Zealand.
And now we sit on the razor’s edge and hope for the resolve to put the genie back into the bottle one last time.
And here is where my faith in basic human goodness falters a bit.