I couldn’t be more thankful in the place where I am right now amidst the scare and uncertainties brought about by Covid 19 pandemic. Indeed, our NZ leader, Auntie Cindy (as we call her in our household and in groupchats with friends) is doing an exceptional job in our fight against the deadly coronavirus which continuously delivers its package of fright and panic across the globe. Our reference to our Prime Minister (that is Auntie Cindy) may sound quite gray but she is a young 39 year old commander of our little island nation.
Auntie Cindy has been praised by many worldwide for her extraordinary way of handling the health issue we have at hand and she deserves it. But how is she really succeeding in flattening the curve of Covid 19 in this country? How is she achieving the GOAL to ELIMINATE the virus?
Looking back on 21 March, NZ had already 52 confirmed cases of coronavirus. On the same day, Auntie Cindy announced the Four Alert Level System the country would implement in response to Covid 19 outbreak. At that time, she confirmed that we were at Alert Level 2. She basically prepared us of what to expect in the coming days. Two days later on 23 March, she declared the move to Alert Level 3 after our confirmed cases rose to 102, raising up to Alert Level 4 in 48 hours,. On 25 March, Auntie Cindy announced a State of Emergency. All these decisions were made because she conferred with and listened to the experts especially to those in the medical and the scientific communities.
Her message was comprehensive, firm, reassuring and very human. It was clear and transparent and laden with encouragement. It was emphatic with full recognition of how the sudden changes would impact everyone’s lives. And everyday since, Auntie Cindy together with the Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield update New Zealanders of details of coronavirus cases, where we are at, our plans and how our collective actions are pulling it off. Everyday, she reminds us to continue to be KIND, STAY HOME, SAVE LIVES and LOOK AFTER ONE ANOTHER. Everyday, she thanks the team of more than 5 million New Zealanders for working and uniting together in our fight against Covid 19.
I go to work as usual because I am an essential worker. I am a Registered Nurse. I have to admit that I get quite moved when I see the road signs on my way to work thanking the essential workers. Gratitude goes out not only to health workers. Traffic signs shout out too to supermarket workers, freight drivers, policemen, and others. In every highway and main road are signs reminding everyone to BE KIND, STAY HOME and SAVE LIVES.
In health settings, we are more than strict in our measures in practicing universal precautions. We scaled it up much further to protect ourselves and others from possible transmissions of the virus. Each day, we are reminded to consider ourselves and everyone infected to help us remember to do all the necessary actions we need to continue to do to crush the the invisible assailant. Of course, as Auntie Cindy and Dr. Bloomfield reiterate, ELIMINATING does not mean making the virus disappear right away but in every new case to be identified, a widespread contact tracing, isolation and treatment would be done as fast as possible. The elimination policy is certainly a daredevil. It is bold. But the whole nation is in solidarity with the PM to achieve such a daring goal.
Personally, I am not scared. I see how we are succeeding. We have plans. We have systems and procedures in place. There are clear and transparent communications between the team leader and team members. There are collective actions and collective decisions. This is not to say though that there is zero breach restrictions. There are few who need more guidance, who need to be educated, who need to be corrected. This is not to say too that oppositions just sit down and wait in silence. They absolutely make criticisms to government’s decisions too but such are not to the extent that disrupt the resolutions made everyday. Afterall, they are there to check and balance the government’s decisions and actions.
I believe that Auntie Cindy’s gentle, compassionate but steady demeanor and at times, a casual presence especially when she updated NZ in what seemed to be her bedroom on her Facebook page wearing a comfortable sweatshirt, enormously eased the tension and anxiety everyone was feeling at the early stage of the lockdown. One evening, I felt that I was just interacting with a friend or a work colleague when I was watching her giving an update and replying to people’s queries and concerns while drinking a cup of tea. She invited everyone to have a cuppa with her (of course while in our own bubbles). She was still wearing the same clothes she used earlier in her daily briefing to the nation in the parliament’s podium.
THERE IS NO STIGMA TO COVID 19. That’s what Auntie Cindy echoed in her briefings. That surely has been imbued in New Zealanders’ mind that there is a plethora of consideration and kindness in disposal for essential workers and basically, to everyone. My neighbor has expressed her appreciation a few times for the job I am doing when she sees me driving to work in the morning. One time, she offered to give me some flour for baking. Also one day, food parcels were left on the doorsteps of a house in one of our neighborhoods rented by Filipino nurses.
The elderlies and the medically vulnerable individuals were inundated with offers from families, friends, neighbors and even strangers to buy them foods and other supplies. Student Volunteer Army are supporting essential services across NZ by involving students and young members of the community to provide childcare for the tamariki of health care workers. They also put together grocery system for the elderlies and immunocompromised persons and work with pharmacies to deliver prescriptions and medications for the vulnerable members of our society.
On occasions when I go for a run, I am still greeted with a smile or a good morning from someone across the road. If we are on the same side and on incoming direction, we maintain at least 2 meters distance but more often than not, a nod or smile, a hi or a hello is always shared.
You must also have heard of some landlords who waived the rents of their struggling tenants for a few weeks or months. Or police officers visiting some kids who are celebrating their birthdays during the lockdown while maintaining the required social distance.
While it is a fact that before the lockdown our supermarkets had more irons in the fire, no one has ever knock the living daylights out of someone over a toilet paper or a bag of pasta. Perhaps a few supermarkets were left with empty shelves but that was only short-lived. It helped remarkably when Auntie Cindy reassured the people that there was no need to panic buy as we have enough supply of food and other necessities. Indeed, we have more than enough. So in the few days that followed, people visit the supermarket less and less. Personally, I have been a guest of the grocery only once since the lockdown. Not to mention that I endeavored to eat less as well while maintaining a healthy diet. And nope, my fridge nor my pantry is not jampacked with foods.
As of today, the combined total of probable and confirmed Covid 19 cases in NZ are 1,461. The reported recovered cases are 1,118. There are 5 new cases of which 3 are confirmed and 2 are probable. Sadly, there is another casualty raising the death toll to 18. On Monday, 27 April at 11:59 PM, NZ is moving down to Alert Level 3. Again, New Zealanders are briefed that there will only be more economic activities but social restrictions will remain tight. I personally support this from soup to nuts. In fact, poll shows that majority of New Zealanders want to stay in isolation even after we move down the alert levels. This only proves that New Zealanders are totally supporting the government’s decisions for the nation’s more rapid recovery from this unprecedented crisis.
While it might be true that New Zealand has a greater advantage of a straight fight with the spread of coronavirus due to its geographical remoteness and low population, I think what gave us a greater chance of breaking the chain of transmission is the solidarity in our plans and actions. We are a team of corroborative 5 million people with an exceptionally resolute leader who is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
I just hope that as we shift to lower alert levels, New Zealanders would not get complacent. We should continue what we are doing and not allow to lose the gains and sacrifices we have made as we went hard, went early. This definitely continues to put more pressure in our economy, but I am sure it is going to bounce back. But life, when taken away will never be recovered. So let’s continue to look after one another. Let’s continue to unflinchingly pound coronavirus. In this crisis, every New Zealander is a hero.
Be kind. Be safe. Stay home. Save lives.
Kia kaha New Zealand.