Lockdown Around The World: Oceania

Sept 2, 2020 Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres

Since I’m your resident travel writer, it was obvious that when it came to more Covid-19 info, I was going to bring you a story with international flair. As the world slowly emerges from lockdown (and parts go back in, as cases surge again in certain places), we take a look at how measures have varied immensely from one country to the other, and even regionally. Here are a few (well, more than a few) people from various countries, telling you about their experiences during these testing times. A big thanks to my Mum for helping me get people!

Eske, 75, lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has a smallish house (100m2) set in a fairly large garden.

She’s single, but carer for a 96-year-old male friend and also have my 21-year-old granddaughter living with me. The three of us made a lockdown bubble. “Our strictest level here was level 4 which lasted 4 ½ weeks, from 18th March to Monday 20th April. This level involved no contact with anyone outside your lockdown bubble. No going outside your suburb unless you were an essential worker. We were allowed to exercise outside (walking or cycling) subject to strict 2 m distancing rules. I am fortunate to live in a pleasant area with bush and coastal walks where I walk my little dog every day. I drove to the supermarket once a week and I sat in the car while my granddaughter went inside as people of my age were encouraged not to go shopping if at all possible. Enjoyed lots of phone and video chats with friends and family all round the world. We were not at any point compelled to wear masks (unless a medical worker) but constant reminders were issued to wash/sanitize hands frequently.” Level 3 was almost as restrictive as Level 4 with the one difference that you could have visits from one person at a time who also lives in your suburb or one suburb away. Some contactless shopping became possible including takeaways. Level 2 started on May 10th because there were virtually no new Covid cases and the few that cropped up were from known clusters. Most people have been able to return to work. No gatherings permitted of more than people, but up to 50 allowed at funerals. Restaurants and cafes allowed to open but with strict distancing and cleaning rules. Schools started again on Monday 25th May, and bars opened subject to strict rules.

“My translation work dropped off to a trickle in March and has not yet picked up again. My clients are mostly from Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. For me it was like a holiday (I have never had many holidays because of the need to earn an uninterrupted income). I had more contact via phone and video chats with grandchildren in Australia and relatives and friends in Europe than I normally would. We had no food or toilet paper shortage problems. Did not buy petrol for 8 weeks! My granddaughter got bored and filled her time with lots of cooking and baking which was fun for us all.” She has seen no-one outside her bubble during level 4. Her elderly friend’s son visited as soon as they went down to level 3. Her eldest daughter came and visited for Mother’s Day. “She’s a librarian who recently resumed work. She quite enjoyed her time alone, did lots of reading and fitness and yoga exercises at home. She joined in with the family video chat sessions. My son’s life continued as busy as ever as he normally works from home (for a large international translation company) and he and his wife have a horse ranch where more work was required than usual as people could not come to see their horses which are grazed at the property. My son and daughter-in-law found having their lively 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son at home continuously a bit of a trial. I was sad not to be able to see those grandchildren as often as I normally do.

My younger daughter works in the mines in Australia which the Australian government has kept operating as they are regarded as ‘essential work’. It has not been pleasant for the mine workers who normally fly in and out and have family scattered all round Australia. This daughter has not had such a good time of it and has really missed seeing her children.” She believes the government did a splendid job and Jacinda Ardern was an amazing presence on the daily information bulletins on TV. They moved swiftly with financial assistance and wage subsidies. They did everything they could to ensure minimum economic damage while ensuring the best possible health outcomes. “I am glad for everyone who has been affected badly financially that we are now able to resume work again (except for those who have lost jobs). I think our government moved quickly to protect our health and our return to a relatively more normal life now means that economic recovery may be not as bad as many had feared. I am personally not too worried about my health as the part of Auckland where I live has had no Covid cases. I am confident that we can look forward to no further outbreaks. Tourism will continue to suffer badly while our borders are closed. We don’t know yet when travel between Australia and New Zealand can resume with real safety (not to mention international travel). In spite of being shocked by this unforeseen terrible crisis, I loved the absolute quiet round the neighbourhood in the first few weeks of lockdown. The birdsong around us was glorious and we were so lucky with the weather too. At my age I live my life more on the fringe and the impact on me and my family has not been too bad. Fortunately, none of us has health problems either. And the kindness of strangers demonstrated up and down the country throughout this difficult time has been amazing!”

Marie, 55, lives in Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia.

She has a house of around 120m2 with a garden where she lives with her husband. She’s always worked from home so there was no difference there. Rules of lockdown differed by stage and also state. “At the strictest, in NSW, we could only go out for essential shopping, medical/pharmacy, exercise or caring for someone. We could still drive to the beach for exercise though, even though it’s 10km away. Only 1 visitor allowed in the house, with social distancing. No interstate travel allowed; borders are closed. Everything was closed except supermarkets and pharmacies, everybody stayed home except essential workers.” She found it easy to follow the rules and has been able to see some friends regularly. “My son lives in Melbourne, 2000km away. He’s a homebody so he hasn’t minded, also he lives with friends which means he’s not alone, and he could still see his girlfriend even though they don’t live together. I was a bit worried at first, especially not knowing how it would go and when I’d be able to see him again. But the curve got flattened early here so I could relax fairly quickly.” She believes the government’s responsa has been OK. State governments have been more on the ball, while the federal government was dragging their feet a bit. She’s cautious about the end of lockdown, even though she’d love to be able to visit her family which always requires extensive travel. 

Jenna*, 31, lives in Melbourne with her partner in a two-story townhouse/apartment of roughly 90m2 with a balcony.

She works for a University as a clubs & sport officer and is currently doing it from home. Rules have been similar to everywhere else, social distancing, venues and schools closed, only takeout at cafes and restaurants, limited numbers in a store, hand sanitizer when going anywhere, no seeing anyone except those you live with. “I’ve found lockdown more odd than difficult to follow. I appreciate the innovation that has come from this and problem solving from companies. It’s made a bigger difference and has allowed for faster change. Although it’s also showed people’s true nature (selfish or giving).” She hasn’t seen family or friends in over 1.5 months. “I think the government tried their best. There are still some contradictions and lack of clarity. But overall, it would be hard for them to control a whole state.” She’s excited to see what comes out of this post-lockdown. “I’m keen to see more flexibility in working from home. And anxious to not just see everything go back to normal pre-innovation. I definitely miss my social life and outings to shows, restaurants, and seeing family and friends. Also not having that weird vibe from people looking at anyone who sneezes or is too close.”

*Please note some of these collections are at least one/two months old, so things might already have changed for them.