Cork man Conor Dunne arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on March 19, amidst heightening global fears regarding the coronavirus. That night, the country closed its borders for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from immigration.
The government reaction here has been swift and restrictive – at the time of writing (April 1), I am in my thirteenth day of self-isolation, after it was announced a week before I arrived that every person travelling into New Zealand must do so for a fortnight. As such, I have been confined within my home since the day I arrived and have seen nothing of this country besides the drive from the airport and the (admittedly picturesque) landscape surrounding my home. It has certainly not been the start to my new adventure that I could have ever imagined.
On top of those restrictions, the country moved to Alert Level 4 on March 25, which entails a full lockdown excluding essential services. It will remain like this for at least four weeks. This is all not to say that I resent these restrictions, far from it. The measures taken have ensured that the number of cases here has remained comparatively low compared with other nations, with only 61 new reported cases today. There has yet to be a day when the number of new cases has been over 100, with a total of 708 reported cases overall. That being said, the current projections are that the situation is due to get worse before it gets better. We are most certainly not out of the woods yet.
The big problem I am currently facing is the lack of employment available during lockdown. I moved here on a work-holiday visa with the expectation of getting work soon after arriving. As it stands, I will remain unemployed for the rest of the lockdown, relying on savings to pay for rent and groceries. Global flight restrictions also mean that I have little hope of returning home for the foreseeable future. However, even if that were what I wanted to do, travelling that far and through that many airports would only prove to be a health risk for both me and my family upon returning.
An unfortunate set of circumstances to be sure, but remaining optimistic here has not proven difficult. The glass half full attitude to my situation is that I am living in a gorgeous area of a beautiful country with good friends, all of us getting through this pandemic together. Come tomorrow, I will be finished my self-isolation, meaning a huge influx of board games, playing cards and my first essential grocery store trip in New Zealand, a prospect which excites me greatly. The fact of the matter is the swift actions taken here, as well as the country’s seclusion from the rest of the world, mean that I am much safer here than most other places on the planet. So, while it is tough being so far away from my family in this trying and scary time, I can only be thankful to be somewhere as safe and stunning as this.
As of April 5, New Zealand has a total of 1106 coronavirus cases and one person has died.