New Zealand has officially gone two weeks without a new case of COVID-19. There’s one remaining active case at the tail end of symptoms, and after that the country will be officially coronavirus-free. I thought now would be a great time for me to spend the summer months (winter months in the Southern Hemisphere) traveling.
No doubt being a low-density, high-social-trust island in the middle of the Pacific made the task of curbing the pandemic a fair bit easier for the government. But it’s a miracle that Kiwis managed to vanish the curve entirely at a grand total of only 22 deaths. Besides supposedly causing strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks, coronavirus, we’ve been told, is capable of clinging to surfaces indefinitely, transmitting asymptomatically at a hundred leagues, and somersaulting through the air.
You’d think that a cloud of the stuff would’ve drifted over from Australia by now. The southeasterly winds must be particularly favorable this year.
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Credit where credit is due, though: as soon as my international cohort got off the plane, we were efficiently shuttled by masked attendants to a nearby Ministry of Health field office. Symptomatic travelers were taken to a special quarantine facility. As I seemed relatively alive and healthy, I went with the rest of the new arrivals to a hotel for a more relaxed 14-day managed isolation.
I’d liken the experience to a four-star prison. Sleep at 10 p.m., wake at 6 a.m., three meals a day at regular intervals, left outside our doors with a knock. Supervised yard time if we asked for it. The food was good, but the gym was off-limits (something about infectious perspiration), so overall my stay was perhaps not quite up to prison standards.
Twice a week, they sent a nurse up with a brief checklist to make sure I hadn’t turned into a zombie. That was the extent of my face-to-face interaction with other human beings.
Did I learn anything from my 14 days of (sort of) solitude? A lot of yoga postures, mostly. I also came to appreciate how much unnecessary waste food deliveries must be generating during lockdowns. The three meals a day for two weeks, each delivered in a plastic container inside a paper tote, had accumulated into three full jumbo garbage bags by the time of my departure.
Ultimately, though, I found the government’s handling of the situation considerate and competent. I volunteered a temporary bit of my liberty so that everyone else could be more secure. I don’t think old Benjamin would’ve minded.