Musings from isolation - Week 4
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Some of life’s most difficult and challenging events can produce the most creative and positive outcomes.
The country has been in lockdown for four weeks. The cities resemble ghost towns, business was brought to a grinding holt, restaurants and retail stores are devoid of customers and many shops potentially closed for good.
But just in case you haven’t noticed, there are some excellent takeaways.
Here they are:
Now into our final week of Level 4 lockdown, progress has been significant, with only 5 new confirmed cases and 14 COVID-19 related deaths. Recovered cases exceed 1000 and over 86,000 people have been tested in New Zealand for the virus.
With a total of 1450 confirmed cases, our mortality rate sits at 1%, that’s incredibly low when you consider the statistics released from other countries.
New Zealanders have been advised they will stay in lockdown for a further week before transitioning to Level 3, where limited business activity can take place. Restaurants, cafes, gyms, hair/beauty therapy and retail will remain closed until the country moves towards level 2 and schools will likely resume towards the end of April.
Interestingly, an online survey showed 64% of New Zealanders voted against coming out of level 4 at the originally proposed date (22nd April). They’re either very afraid of a relapse or having way too much fun in lockdown.
Many businesses will use the extended week to develop smart business practices and create new systems going forward.
Others will face the daunting task of formalising redundancy or revised salary packages. Rather surprisingly, I discovered there are over 500,000 small businesses listed in New Zealand, that supposedly represents 29% of our economy.
Assuming the virus is harnessed sufficiently to allow the population to move relatively freely again, there is always the possibility that without close supervision, people will resume activities deemed to be risky.
As a collective group we have complied, not just flattened the curve but effectively, for the time being, starved the virus.
However, I’m very keen to know our government’s cunning plan for preventing it from recurring.
While its reassuring to hear academic researchers are using mathematical modelling and various formulas to make recommendations on the probable spread of the virus, COVID-19 is stealth in its nature, which means we should be offensive rather than defensive, in dealing with it.
It begs the question whether we have adequate measures to sample check the population for any silent outbreaks. And can we efficiently contact trace, should the virus unleash again as it has done in Singapore.
I don’t want to find myself back in lockdown a month from now, as a result of ineffective measures. Without a doubt we desperately need a comprehensive national contact system to trace the virus. It’s naïve and unrealistic to expect people to keep a track record of their daily engagements.
“Today I talked to the woman in the fish shop, the sushi guy, the gas station attendant, the supermarket check-out operator, the hot guy doing hamstring stretches at the beach, etc…”
Digital contact tracing via Bluetooth has been readily adopted with good results in East Asia, but it's only effective if the majority of people are on board with it. Given the size of New Zealand’s population, presumably it’s something we should consider. Again it comes down to how organised the government is and whether we could obtain the devices and technology required in time. That information would be stored via National Contact Technology Solution – a storage platform that records individual exposure, confirmed cases and future management.
This does of course raise issues of privacy, especially given this kind of surveillance means we could potentially be monitored 24/7.
There is a legitimate concern, without entertaining the conspiracy theorists, for the notion of ‘Big Brother’ and subsequent public passivity here.
Enough of politics.
I’ve been reflecting more on ‘family’ during lockdown and wondering whether, despite some early predictions of increased domestic violence and family disharmony, there has in fact been more or less incidence of this.
Certainly on the surface it seems as though family and friends are connecting more than ever before. Lockdown has given individuals an opportunity to reconnect in ways they may never have imagined.
In times of greatest stress or economic depression people need people.
Distant relatives/whanau have increasingly become an integral part of the greater family unit. Kiwis have embraced the opportunity to rekindle old acquaintances and forge new friendships.
But a fair number of people have not coped so well in lockdown and with impending loneliness, social paralysis can creep in.
The government’s repetitive ‘Stay home, Stay safe’ agenda has in many cases (particularly the elderly), been taken quite literally and given rise to feelings of depression, isolation and powerlessness.
It’s important to remember that although we’ve been immobilised, unable to go the places we’d like to or see the people we want to, the mind itself is not in a vice, in fact its free to wander wherever you’d like it to.
It’s actually refreshing to stop and discover just how far your thoughts will take you.
I’ll digress for just a moment to prove this point. I’ve always loved dogs. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this, I almost love them more than people.
They are the unsung heroes in this COVID fiasco.
Immune to the virus, they remain neutral, like a ‘Switzerland’ of sorts, gathering important intel from various bubbles they encounter on the street, beach, park or wherever.
Despite human social distancing, our dog travels effortlessly between our two family bubbles, willingly accepting hugs, cuddles and anything else on offer.
She is one of the few things left in this world that I can safely touch. And it’s pretty clear she’s milking it.
She even found ‘Whinny’ a rescue dog during lockdown, who has officially become her bitch bestie.
The prolonged sniff and over-zealous tail wag says it all really. “OMG is it seriously your third walk today?”
Another area of behaviour (mostly mine) that I find disturbing during this isolation period is the potential to become a little obsessive compulsive. The repetitive walking, absurd amount of cooking and baking, the over wiping of bench tops, on repeat day after day. Some days I have to check if we’re still in the month of April, as the days have begun to feel overly familiar.
One thing that’s become very clear working remotely from home. If we can do this relatively successfully, then why wouldn’t small businesses at least, consider continuing this and work remotely after lockdown? There are obvious economic and social advantages to this style of work, apart from the cost savings in commercial premises, it brings other positives such as less traffic on the roads and less time spent away from children.
And it goes without saying, more time spent with your dog.
This quote popped up on my screen today - it's refreshingly on-point.
‘Maybe we all needed to lose our freedom for a little while, to be truly grateful for it.’