Life in Lock Down: Day 1

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Lock Down: Day 1 – A photo essay with observations

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Day one of the Level 4 nationwide lock-down (or, DefCon 4 as I sometimes cheekily call it) started at 11.59PM on 25 March. For a moment, most of the nation held it’s collective breath. In that brief moment, as the countdown moved to one minute to midnight, everything changed.

Those of us not doing a graveyard shift went to bed knowing that tomorrow morning we would be waking up into a changed world.

We were not to be disappointed.

Just after 9AM, I left the house. Carrying my packed lunch; my work satchel containing – amongst other things – a letter from my employer identifying my role in the health sector; and most important, my third coffee for the day. Jump into the car and crawl out of the driveway. Driving past the normally packed Park & Ride carpark, there is only one car sitting alone in a large barren expanse of bitumen.

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On the motorway, the traffic was almost non-existent. At any moment there were no more than three or four cars travelling either in my direction or on-coming.

Most jarring was the neanderthal moron who – on a near-deserted highway – decided to tailgate me for several kilometres. Note to the driver of silver Toyota Van ELJ368, the cloth/paper facemask you wore whilst driving a few metres behind me at 100ks won’t help you much if I suddenly have to brake. Dick.

Despite the supposed order to stay at home, two bicycle riders along SH2 and a lone middle aged male walking along the harbour-side of the motorway, obviously decided that the global emergency did not apply to them. It was an indication of things to come, unfortunately.

The entire trip took half the time it normally did. The Terrace Tunnel was empty bar a couple of on-coming vehicles.

And then, Wellington City. Unnervingly near empty streets. I was thankful for the few cars and pedestrians who were present. Total emptiness would have been too much and I would lost it.

Victoria Street, looking north;

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Looking south,

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Cuba Street, looking north,

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Vivian Street, looking back towards the Terrace Tunnel,

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Taranaki Street, looking north,

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Looking south,

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New World in Miramar – embarrassingly plentiful carparking,

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Even more deserted at Kilbirnie Pak N Save – and nary a toilet paper hoarder in sight,

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Likewise Countdown in Kilbirnie. Singing, “Where have all the shoppers gone, long since bought up large…”

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Who’s feeling silly now, I wonder?

Onepu Road, looking south,

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Looking north, toward Wellington CBD,

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Newtown, Constable Street, looking east toward the airport,

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Adelaide Road, looking north toward Wellington CBD,

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Looking south, toward the Zoo,

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These guys got the memo on social distancing,

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Another jogger who thought lock-down obviously translated to “time-for-a-run-because-this-shit-don’t-apply-to-me”,

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Adelaide Road toward the Basin Reserve,

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Kent and Cambridge Terraces, looking north,

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At around 10.30AM it suddenly dawned on me…

I had seen joggers, bicyclists, a couple of skateboarders and random individuals and couples out and about. There were a few cars, vans, and even a couple of camper vans (who were on the move to carry on their holidays? More on that shortly.)

But no police.

Not a single police constable or vehicle until the first policecar was seen turning a corner into Cambridge Terrace.

Courtney Place, looking east,

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And west,

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Despite the above two images showing an apparently deserted street, there were people strolling along. “Stay at home”? Not likely.  And for the most part, when passing each other, the two metre distancing rule was not followed.

Lambton Quay, looking south. The “Golden Mile” is normally jam-packed with traffic, buses, office workers, and consumer-citizens on their holy mission to Shop. Today, it was a scene from ‘The Quiet Earth‘ with only Bruno Lawrence in his white negligee missing-in-action,

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Looking north, a lone bus was on a forlorn search for passengers,

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As I took the above image, there was something else I began to notice. Parked on either side of the road; cars.

And in the side streets from Lambton Quay,

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Why so many cars?

I hoped that they were from inner city apartment dwellers – and not office workers sneakily coming in to work, ignoring the lock down. If people are sneak-working, their unmitigated selfishness is endangering the entire country, economy, and other workers’ jobs.

And then there were these two muppets in their campervans. All campers/travellers have been ordered to stay put. But obviously the entire country can go get f****d, because by Thor these self-entitled morons were determined not to let a global pandemic and the deaths of thousands of people interfere with their jolly nice time in Aotearoa.

If either one of these camper vans contained a person with covid19, they will be spreading the disease along their travels. Every place they stop, they could potentially spread infection,

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Or maybe they have immunity to covid19? I want me some of that!

Just before mid-day, I park up on another near-deserted street in Johnsonville. Lunch is pre-made; left-over cold pork slices on Roggenbrot Rye, with picked figs from my tree. No coffee… I stare at my empty coffee cup longingly. I think Churchillian thoughts of self-sacrifice…

I stay in my car; a cocoon of steel and glass, (hopefully) impenetrable to the virus. Unless the virus has mutated to penetrate through glass and metal, I’m safe. I listen to RNZ; a story of a widow who will be spared the ugly spectacle of the trial of the Christchurch terrorist (whose name shall not be mentioned). Grim… and still hard to comprehend that one demented individual could destroy so many lives.

And still no cops to be seen.

Until – Johnsonville. I see a police vehicle slowly crawl into the Mall carpark and park. Three constables alight and disappear into a nearby store,

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They enter a shop that was open to the public. Snatches of conversation indicate they were questioning the store owner. The store owner could be heard explaining that MPI had given them permission to open,

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The store is a ‘specialist’ retailer stocking imported grocery items (store name deleted to deter possible harassment). It does have a considerable range of goods (far wider than The Warehouse, for sure!) and probably constitutes a ‘superette’ not dissimilar to a ‘Four Square‘. The sign at the entry stipulates one customer to enter at any given time,

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Tough call. The police seem satisfied and leave. Some cynics may question if police have “nothing better to do than harass law-abiding shop-keepers”.

Screw that.

We are living in perilous times and if we don’t all act in unison, then we – as a thinking, rational (*cough*) species – will be defeated by a microsopic mindless organism that isn’t even aware of itself or us. The more some people “piss” around, the longer this goes on.

After the shenanigans from The Warehouse, and other businesses “trying it on”, the role of the Police will be vital to prevent the lock-down turning into a massive, leaking sieve. Otherwise, this;

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Few people I saw out and about could have reasonable excuses. Certainly not grocery shopping. (The lack of groceries; grocery bags, or a near-by supermarket kinda gave it away.)

Those who were out jogging, biking, strolling casually through the streets of Wellington were indulging their whims at the expense of others. The longer some people treat this lock-down as a holiday for recreational activities, the longer the virus circulates through the country and the longer the state of emergency will last.

What do we need to drive this home? Dead bodies? No problem; the virus will eventually oblige us.

And throughout all this, police presence was minimal. During my drive from the Hutt Valley to a client in Miramar and then to Johnsonville, I spotted one police vehicle turning into Kent Terrace; one Police “paddy-wagon” turning from Harris Street in to Jervois Quay at about 11AM; a parked (empty) police car near the Police National HQ, and finally the police action in Johnsonville.

If this lock down is not to collapse into a dangerous farce, with foolish people treating it like an impromptu holiday, the Police need to “up their game”. Their presence must be felt if they are serious in deterring flouters of the lock-down. Jobs, our economy, and lives are riding on this.

The public are the ones meant to be on “lock-down”, not the New Zealand Police.

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“You can go for a walk or a bike ride around your neighbourhood to get some exercise. You can go out to get essentials like food. But stay away from other people. No stopping to chat – even if you are two metres away from each other. Just give a wave and keep moving. Because the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, don’t take your kids to the playground. Stay at home.” –  Siouxsie Wiles, 26 March 2020

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Note: The author works in the wider Health sector and is part of an essential service; with specific clients to attend to. During the weekend, the author will be on lock down at home.

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References

Democracy Now: Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

RNZ: Widow -“I am relieved we won’t have to sit through a trial”

The Spinoff:  Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris – You’re waking up in lockdown New Zealand. Here’s how it works

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost will be re-published  on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Those resident in Wellington City are perfectly and lawfully entitled to jog, bike or stroll around its streets. It’s their neighbourhood.

    And those cars might be of those doing the vital trace and track work which is vital in the containment effort.

    It’s early days – breathe through your nose as they say about the bright eyed and bushy tailed entrants to Parliamentary playschool.

    And if this goes to months, as it might if we fail to trace and track and isolate those spreading, then those out and about exercising are doing what is necessary to stay well and survive this period – without allowing their health to get run down (which would weaken their immune system).

    • “entitled ”

      I think that’s the key word, SPC.

      Their “entitlement” makes my job harder as I, my colleagues, and other essential service providers, keep working to make things happen. So not only do I have to keep my clients safe, but myself as well.

      If I go down, I could take (potentially) up to six of my co-workers with me, as well as seven clients. It would be helpful if people could forego their entitlements for just another three and a half weeks.

  2. Interesting Frank. The past two days I’ve walked to the end of our street which overlooks the motorway and each time there’s been a near continuous stream of cars heading into Wellington. I can’t imagine there are that many essential workers heading in from outside the city so who are they and where are they going? I assumed the police would have been present at the end of the motorway to ask people where they were going but seeing your photos it would appear no police presence. Not much point having a lockdown if people are just going to cruise around.

    • Pretty much my thoughts as well, Gidget.

      Aside from prolonging the shutdown, people flouting the emergency makes my job that much harder (and harder for other essential service workers as well).

      The more people about, the more chance I have of catching this nasty little bugger. Which won’t help me or my clients much.

  3. “…the Police need to up their game. Their presence must be felt if they are serious in deterring flouters of the lock-down.”

    In Wellington, the police don’t just drive around in marked police cars, they drive other cars in various colours; I wouldn’t know the makes or the colours of these, but the criminals, gangs, and I daresay others, do, because they swear at them, and gesticulate rudely when they see them.

    It’s a bit early for you to be saying that the police need to up their game.

    Every single one of those cops is putting her/him self at risk, just like all the medical people and the checkout operators are, and they are functioning in boundless bubbles, and they could be putting their nearest and dearest at risk too, and importantly, they are not the enemy.

    Most of the mother and father police officers live out of Wgtn, further north, and they don’t have work car parks provided – a Wgtn Central admin person boasted to me that the clerical staff have parking priority.

    The sort of persons who are most likely to flout curfews are dimwits and crooks – and they know the unmarked police cars anyway – but if they do get out of hand and start looting, then I’d be fairly relaxed about the army shooting one or two of them – sure the odd innocent person could get snuffed, but stuff happens.

    • Applewood: “….and they don’t have work car parks provided…”

      Completely barmy at the best of times; the more so right now.

      “The sort of persons who are most likely to flout curfews are dimwits and crooks….”

      Last week, I remarked to a relative that I’d take bets there were people in NZ at that stage who’d have no idea about the lockdown. They’re the people who don’t speak or read English at all, and those who don’t listen to the news. And there are many of both. I’m guessing that they’d know by now, what with one thing and another!

      And: confirmation of sorts. On Thursday, I heard from another relative that young Germans here weren’t complying with the self-isolation requirements because they believed that the rules applied only to NZers. Heh!

      But it’s difficult for second-language speakers. On Morning Report yesterday (I think) I heard Corin Dann interviewing a young German. He made the classic mistake of native speakers: he spoke too fast, blathered and asked several questions, one after the other. Her English was good, but not equal to the task. We’ve learned these lessons talking with family in central Europe: one question at a time, don’t rattle on, avoid local dialect words and terms, and remember that our Kiwi accent is a complicating factor when it comes to comprehension.

      Let’s not be too hard on NZers. We’re all making shift, aren’t we? Some making heavier weather of it than others, by the looks.

    • “…but if they do get out of hand and start looting, then I’d be fairly relaxed about the army shooting one or two of them – sure the odd innocent person could get snuffed, but stuff happens.”

      You’re taking the piss, right?

  4. Frank, it just wouldn’t be you without a dig at the Police, would it? Haven’t you got anything better to do?

    • Aside from working in an essential service; keeping my clients safe from a deadly virus; trying to dodge the viral bullet myself, Gary? Nope, not a single thing.

      You stay safe though, eh?

  5. “Those who were out jogging, biking, strolling casually through the streets of Wellington were indulging their whims at the expense of others.”

    Hi, Frank. Nice to see you here on this site again.

    You are aware, I assume, of how many people now live in apartments in the Wellington CBD and nearby? At the time of the 2010 ChCh quake, it was remarked upon how few deaths there were in the mile square. That was because very few people lived in that area at that time. And: it was also remarked upon how high the toll would likely have been here, given the large population in the Wellington CBD.

    As to the cars parked there: residents, I’m guessing, taking advantage of free parking. I don’t blame them.

    We have family members stuck in an apartment in the Auckland CBD. They’re going out to the supermarket and for walks: the first because those apartments are tiny and there’s little storage. The second for the maintenance of sanity: those apartments are tiny etc…

    It’s probably best not to be too hasty in judgement, unless you know the circumstances of those people.

    I live in the northern suburbs. We use two nearby supermarkets. I also walk quite a bit hereabouts. In the last couple of days, the lack of traffic is noticeable. At one vantage point, I can see the motorway: traffic there has been steady, but not heavy. Trucks, tradie-style vans and 4×4s and the like. I cut the drivers some slack and assume that they’re legit.

    Out walking, I’ve encountered many people, a lot of them with small children. I’m old: they give me a wide berth! It feels a bit like I have leprosy, but I understand that their intentions are good.

    I have great compassion for those with young children; several neighbours are in this situation. By yesterday, I’d already heard raised voices, and it was only day two. It’s going to be a long four weeks. Any longer, there’s likely to be blood on some floors, never mind the bloody coronavirus….

    With regard to this physical distancing business: it’s easier said than done in the supermarkets. We all do our best. And one in particular has made heroic efforts to bring about the desired spacing. But it’s difficult…

    I know the Johnsonville area well. The mall itself has been closed since Wednesday evening. The attached supermarket is open, though one must access it by way of its entrance from the carpark at the McDonald’s side.

    I’d add that there is a heavily-patronised pharmacy inside the Johnsonville mall; I don’t know what has happened with that. The same applies to North City in Porirua. It’s outside our immediate area, so I don’t know how that’s been handled, either.

    Last I looked, there were a couple of specialist foodmarkets in the Johnsonville area, though not in the mall itself. Given the range of products they sell, I’d be surprised if they weren’t open. You must have got close, to be able to hear what was being said by the police to the owner.

    Where I live, we haven’t seen the police. Nor would I expect to, unless they’re patrolling local shops, or called out by residents to deal with burglar Bill – who’s given locals a bit of grief in recent times. The police have far more pressing matters to attend to than worrying about inoffensive local citizens who are just trying to save their sanity and give their kids enough physical exercise that said kids will sleep at night.

    • “Hi, Frank. Nice to see you here on this site again.”

      Thank you, D’Esterre…

      Re the cars in Wellington CBD. I hope, hope, hope you are right and they were vehicles belonging to inner city apartment dwellers. It would be frightening if office workers were indulging in “sneak working” through some misguided sense of self-importance.

      As at 1pm today the first person in Aotearoa New Zealand has died from covi19. The numbers of infections has risen to 514.

      I don’t mind confessing that it is a frightening prospect to go to work tomorrow. But I’m one of the “lucky bastards” who works in an essential service. Lucky me.

      If I catch the virus, my diabetes and age group (to put it delicately I’m no longer in my 20s…) will be two strikes against me. I think the medical term is “I’m f****d”.

      But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      (PS: In the event of my demise my Will is in my Filing Cabinet; someone feed my cat; and please clear my Browser History. )

      Anyways, I think this explains my low tolerance threshold for those individuals who think this is a holiday and life is normal.

      We lost “normal” last week.

      Stay safe, D’Esterre , and everyone else. (I don’t want to lose what few folk read my scribblings…)

    • JohnW: “I appreciate the photos Frank.”

      Yeah, they’re illuminating, aren’t they! It’s good to be able to see the CBD and elsewhere in Wgtn, if we ourselves can’t go there.

      I sent this post to a family member, who remarked of the pix that it’s the quiet earth. That it is, for those who remember that movie.

      Another family member said that it reminded them of Neville Shute’s book “On the Beach”, from many years ago. I remember it, most of my generation read it, I believe. It was made into a film: the final scenes in that – of Sydney, I think – were very similar to Frank’s pix of Wgtn.

      • Indeed, D’Esterre, when I chatted with my partner last night, I made reference to “On The Beach” as well…

        I’ll try to get some more pix tomorrow. (Need to fish out an actual camera. My Nokia phone is shite technology.)

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