Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Preparing for lockdown

At 11:59 pm tonight, New Zealand goes on lockdown for at least four weeks in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). As of today, New Zealand has 205 confirmed or probable cases, and no deaths. Yesterday, 1421 COVID-19 tests were processed around the country, raising the total to 9780 tests processed so far. All those numbers will increase.

Today New Zealand declared a State of National Emergency, which gives national and local government extraordinary powers to provide for the health and welfare of New Zealanders. At 11:59pm tonight, virtually the entire country will be under under lockdown. That means that wherever we are at that time tonight is where we are to remain for as long as we’re at Level 4, which the government thinks will last around four weeks.

New Zealanders have been in the midst of a shopping frenzy, trying to stock up before we go under lockdown—even though the government has stated over and over and over again that there’s no need to hoard food because supermarkets will remain open (with strict conditions of entry). New Zealand is a net producer of food, but it has also joined several countries in committing to keep supply lines open.

Kiwis have also been busy buying things to help them do projects around the house, and I’ve been in that category: I bought a lawnmower on Saturday, along with some bits and pieces for projects outside. My main project inside—with nothing much else to do—will be to finish unpacking the boxes in the garage.

Sunday, the day before the announcement of our move to Level 3, to be followed by Level 4 tonight, I went to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house for dinner, then stopped at my usual supermarket to pick up a few things I’d normally buy this week. I wrote on my personal Facebook:
This evening I stopped at Countdown in Te Rapa, Hamilton, to pick up a few things, mostly just the stuff I’d buy any week. I did get three tins of two different products for the pantry, the only things that weren’t on my weekly list. One thing that I wanted to top up because I’m running low on was flour, but there was *none* of any kind, brand, or grade.

I was shocked at how empty the shelves were. This was despite the chain cutting their opening hours and restricting customers to no more than 2 similar items (and security was wandering around the store informing people of the limits), and despite the government repeatedly telling people to not panic-buy or hoard. Even if the country goes under lockdown, food will be available, so this is just stupid.

The store had signs up everywhere asking customers to “be kind” and leave things for others, too. Clearly people aren’t getting the message or they don’t care. Jeez, just imagine what things will be like when the zombies attack!

As for me, I got things I’d get any other week, plus a couple pantry items I don’t buy often, but often have on hand. Though I couldn’t get any flour. Point is, I tried to be responsible (I was also consciously trying to maintain social distancing, though others weren’t).

One other thing I did: I made sure I was nice and very friendly to the people working there. They’re visibly stressed and tired, and the *VERY* least I could do was to be nice to them. It’s what everyone SHOULD do. It really isn’t that hard to be kind to others, and these times demand it more than usual.
The next day, I headed out ot the home centre for some more things for one of my projects, and I added this to my Facebook post:
Update – Monday, 23 March: I went out this morning to pick up some last things for a project here at the house. On my way back I planned on stopping at New World, the other supermarket close to my house (different chain than Countdown), to see if they had flour and to get some milk (I’m running low on that, too). I didn’t go in. At around 11am the carpark was PACKED, something I haven’t seen on a weekday before—though I admit I don’t usually go there on a Monday at 11am…

There were spaces available, but I thought that even if each car had only one person (doubtful), it’d be hard to maintain social distancing. So, I went and got some milk at a superette even closer to my house, and I’m sure they appreciate the business.

However, when I got home I found out I do, in fact, have another bag of flour (I still haven’t organised my pantry, so I missed it when I was making my list yesterday). Whew! I’m so glad I was able to help someone needy—well, probably more likely someone greedy.
The point of all that, apart from sharing what I was doing, was that I didn’t hoard anything and, apart from supplies for my projects, I didn’t buy anything unusual.

There was, however, one unusual thing, as I added in an Instagram post on Monday afternoon:
THIS is my version of “hoarding”: Food for the furbabies. I’d normally buy this toward the end of next month, but I realised that if New Zealand goes under lockdown, the store where I buy their food probably won’t be considered an “essential service”. This amount should see me through a couple months at least. If a lockdown goes on longer than that, I may need to resort to supermarket dog food, LOL. The point, really, isn’t the brand of food, it’s that I’ll have plenty of options to buy food for myself, but they depend on me for everything. So, I’ll “hoard” for them, even if I won’t do it for myself.

A couple notes: I was *not* paid to show a photo of that particular brand—it’s the one I’ve used for years and years. Also, I’m joking about “hoarding”—all I did was buy what I’d normally buy earlier than normal (and the store had PLENTY of stuff in stock). These days it pays to be clear about such things.
So, even that “hoarding” wasn’t actually hoarding, it was just buying stuff a little earlier than I normally would, and it was only because I couldn’t be sure that vets and supply stores would be open (they will be, it runs out, with limited access). Still, it’s close enough.

I’m glad I bought the dog food because I have a strong feeling that the lockdown could very well last longer than four weeks, maybe eight—or twelve? It’ll all depend on what’s happening with the number of new cases.

The number of cases will go up for as much as two weeks as those currently infected show symptoms and test positive. After that, the number of new cases should decrease, however, I think that it won’t be dropping fast or far enough for the government to be sure that there won’t be more infections if they end Level 4 restrictions in four weeks. So, I think the government will extend Level 4.

Another reason I suspect that is that most of the relief packages put through by the government will last three to six months. It absolutely makes sense to build in a buffer “just in case”, unless they, too, think this lockdown will go on longer than expected.

This will be hard on everyone, for many reasons, but I think that those of us who live alone will find it much harder than many others. I’m really lucky that I at least have my furbabies to keep me company; if I didn’t, I might have had to go stay with a relative somewhere to avoid going stark raving mad.

There’s a personal irony in this situation: I moved from Auckland to Hamilton so that I wouldn’t have to be alone all the time, and now I will be anyway. Someone’s “got a sick sense of humour”, as the Depeche Mode song put it.

So there we are: About to be under lockdown, a state of emergency that can and will be enforced by the New Zealand Police and, if necessary, by the Defence Force, too. This is serious shit.

I have absolutely NO idea what I’ll do for four or more weeks cooped up in this house (we’re only allowed out to go for a walk, provided we stay at least two metres from anyone else, and we’re only allowed to drive to and from supermarkets, pharmacies, or other essential services: No driving around for a change of scenery, in other words.

I have some plans for what I’ll do, starting with the garage: All those boxes won’t unpack themselves, sadly. I’m also going to do some projects around the house, and I’ll blog about them—both of which will give me something to do. I hope I’ll find more to do. But for now, we wait to hear the locks being turned.

I hope this works.

The Depeche Mode song I referenced:

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