Personal Reflective Blog on COVID-19, by ADN’s Affiliate, Silvia Zanini

Personal Reflective Blog

By: Silvia Zanini, ADN’s Affiliate based in New Zealand

I am an Italian living in New Zealand, a chartered management accountant, with a degree in Economics and Commerce from the University of Turin, Italy, and a MsC in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management from the University of Leicester, UK. I moved to the UK shortly after graduating and a few years later moved to NZ (this time with husband and kids!). I am interested in safety culture, risk management and informed decision making.

My experience of how the lockdown started was a bit surreal, things escalated quickly. On Friday 20th March, I had to urgently fly from Wellington to Auckland as my son’s appendix was inflamed and he was going into surgery – by 1pm I was at the hospital. That day was a normal day, the only sign of the virus being around was the antibacterial gel at the entrance of the hospital. Move forward a day and the PM announced an alert level system for NZ New Zealand (NZ), declaring the Nation to be at alert level 2. But things still seemed quite normal, my son’s surgery went well – he was out by midday (the miracles of keyhole surgery) and back in the University Halls by the evening.

The day after, Sunday 22 March, we were still at level 2, so back to Wellington I went. Everything was a bit eerie, but all in all still not too bad. The following Monday – 23 March – I was working from home – as my workplace was testing our business continuity plan – and by midday alert level 3 was announced, with the further clarification that alert level 4 would begin within 48 hours. Level 4 meant we were going to be in lockdown: no working in the office, no school for my daughter, Universities closing and my son flying back home, no taking the car unless for essential travel. Life was going to be confined to our bubbles.

We now have had four weeks in lockdown, and from Tuesday (28 April) we will go down to level 3, which means 400,000 people can go back to work, schools will reopen – but only for the children of parents who cannot work from home, everyone else will still be confined to learning from home – shops will be able to sell online again, and takeaways that can offer contactless delivery will also be able to open. Also, people will be able to drive for short distances to be able to get to a park/beach etc to exercise. We should be at level 3 for another two weeks and then we should be able to move to level 2, with the main benefits being people able to travel between regions, and schools and universities, as well as places of work, reopening. I feel NZ has been lucky, we acted fast and the whole Country helped with the response: almost everyone was on board with social distancing, keeping within their bubbles and only doing essential travel. Our numbers are a testament to our efforts, NZ so far had 1,470 cases and 18 deaths (source), but for the past 8 days the number of new cases has been in single digits: the end is within sight.

How are we making it work at home? 

We made changes to the layout of some rooms: the spare room is now my office, the living room now has two desks, one for each of the children, the mezzanine was already set up as a working from home space, so my husband took over that one. We have relaxed the house rules: we give the children their own space and we don’t enforce whatever we used to before, we trust them that they will study, and manage their coursework, and also that they will be safe and won’t break their bubbles when they go out for their daily walk. I keep reminding my son to be safe, and to be kind, and to maintain social distance – he is the person I am the most sorry for, as he had just started enjoying university life away from home, and barely one month in, had to come back. We take it in turns to go to the supermarket, but always after 8pm, as this is when there are no queues and there are fewer people in the aisles, so that you don’t risk anyone bursting your bubble.

We try to be kind to each other, as these are exceptional circumstances. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and tempers do flare, but they go out pretty quickly – usually some exercise (or for the teenagers some food) fixes the problem.

We are lucky. I have a job that I can do from home, and so is my husband. My daughter’s school is pretty well organised and has now set up online lessons, while university for my son will reopen from Tuesday with online lessons too. The real stroke of luck was that we had FTTH installed last November, so we have no bandwidth issues – this enables us to feel like we are working in the office. We have been able to go for walks/runs/exercise every day – I have been so thankful about this, especially as other countries have had far stricter lockdown rules.

There have been other positives too: our PM always talks about kindness, this has rubbed off on everyone – people say hello to each other on the street, work emails and meetings always start with something personal, and with showing care for the email recipient or the meeting attendees. There is plenty of support on offer for people who need it. We are becoming a more caring society.

Still. I miss normal life. I miss going to the office, my colleagues, the random conversations that only happen in the kitchen. I miss being able to run on the waterfront, or past my daughter’s school, at lunch time. I miss meeting friends after work. 

Most of all, I miss doing spontaneous things: going for a coffee, to the movies, deciding that tonight after all we can do takeaways, or being able to go to the supermarket or the local dairy to pick up what we forgot to buy during the weekly shop.

But this a sacrifice worth making to ensure that in a couple of weeks we can all come out and slowly going back to normal life. And hopefully never go back to level 4 again.

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