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Joanne Black: All on the same page

In a rapidly escalating situation, Joanne Black freely admits she got it wrong when writing about Covid-19 two weeks ago.

Well, yes, yes, yes to the letter writers. Writing this column two weeks ago, I got it wrong. I was then, and remain now, extremely concerned by the economic impacts of this episode – the mass unemployment and widespread business foreclosures that are coming – but I should not have trivialised the health risks of Covid-19. Like the proverbial possum in the headlights, I focused on only one light when two are rushing towards us and there appears no safe direction to run. All we can do is draw ourselves in as tightly as we can and hope the semi-trailer slows down as its chassis passes right over us. We will still be here when it’s rattling out of sight down the road, but before then, the possum analogy will have become beyond useless, if it is not already.

It turns out there are five of us here at home, because my elder daughter, whom I was expecting to join us, did not make it out of the UK. After she realised that she could not return by transiting through the US, I re-booked her with Singapore Airlines, but the day before she was due to fly, Singapore closed to transit passengers. There have been a couple of options since then, but she feared being stranded en route and feeling kidnapped in Auckland. My brother-in-law and his family in Worcester took her in just a couple of hours before Britain went into lockdown. Sometimes you know that you are racking up debts that you will never be able to repay.

The German backpacker we hosted was more fortunate and passed through Dubai the day before it shut to transit passengers. He was allowed into Zurich, took a train, then walked for half an hour to reach the German border where his parents waited on the other side, like a Cold War movie minus the Cold War. These are such strange times, and perhaps after all this is over, the era of cheap international travel will have come and gone in my lifetime. The change in Western lifestyles that is essential to preserve the Earth’s environment but which we resist making voluntarily is perhaps upon us. Mind you, I’ve been wrong before. See above.

Life in our bubble does not yet have a rhythm. Four of us are working from home, and my younger daughter, a university student, spends her days lying on her bed with her laptop, occasionally going out to her part-time job at a Countdown supermarket. Last Friday, she spent four hours at work sanitising shopping baskets but shows no inclination to bring this new-found skill home and apply it to anything else.

I wish NZ Post agencies were open. Given the scientific evidence that the risk of transmission of the virus via a cardboard package is very low and given that posties are still delivering mail – including the Listener, thank you – perhaps a way could be found for the public to have packages weighed without NZ Post staff touching them, even with gloves. Slowing right down, hand-writing letters and choosing books from my shelves (boxes, actually) to send to friends in remote places seems like a low-risk fit with the zeitgeist, if only there was a safe technique for posting them. It would be nice to be able to partially ease the burden of isolation, especially for people who are alone and without an internet connection. This probably includes many older people as well as those in remote areas who literally may not see another person for days while the lockdown continues.

My son’s partner, who’s living with us, manages to be immaculately groomed each day. I had been meaning since Christmas to get a haircut and am now considering doing it myself. I did it once. I was six and it was the day before school photos were taken, which is why I have not done it again since. My husband is considering giving up shaving and emerging pale and hirsute from the lockdown like Julian Assange from the Embassy of Ecuador, but without speaking Spanish and preferably not being arrested outside.

This article is from an upcoming issue of the Listener, but we are releasing timely stories early.

Visit the Ministry of Health website or Covid19.govt.nz for more information on the coronavirus disease. 

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