Pandemic thoughts

Well, we’re back in lockdown! It wasn’t a surprise, exactly – I think most of New Zealand figured we would be susceptible to another border failure at some stage, and the government did warn us that any evidence of the Delta strain in the community would probably lead to a lockdown to stamp it out again – but it’s not exactly pleasant.

I am a ball of conflicting thoughts and feelings right now. I’m quite shocked, and a little alarmed, at how incredibly quickly this outbreak has grown. In eight days we’ve gone from one known case to 210 (and that number will be larger again today; I’m writing this before the 1pm update that lets us know how many new cases have been reported in the previous 24 hours). I am so. incredibly. grateful to the man who got tested for Covid-19 instead of dismissing his symptoms as a cold or sniffle. We’ve had virtually no Covid in the community here in New Zealand (one or two cases that were quickly discovered, and that didn’t lead to many more) in over a year. It would be really easy to dismiss symptoms and tell yourself it couldn’t be Covid, especially if you hadn’t travelled anywhere outside of NZ – how would anyone living here get it? Thank goodness he didn’t. I hope he gets a lot of gratitude from those who know him, and also that he’s feeling much better now!

I am feeling slightly whiplashed at the speed of this lockdown though. Living in New Zealand, it’s felt for a long time like the pandemic was fading away. We’ve been living an almost totally normal life for over a year now – the only thing we haven’t been able to do is travel internationally (with the relatively recent exceptions of the Cook Islands and Australia for a hot minute). I also read a bunch of American blogs and even in America it’s felt as though the pandemic has become so much less urgent – it really looks to have been a relatively normal summer over there, with nothing (not even international travel) off the cards! I’m sure a lot of that is just my perception, and also maybe more a suggestion of a pandemic pause than a pandemic stop. It seems like the Delta variant is a game changer for sure.

So we’ve locked down fast (and that was clearly a great decision – I doubt many of us want to be in Australia’s position!) and for a while I guess – it seems likely to go on for longer than I anticipated (because there was one case – and now there are over 200. Crazy.) In all the important ways, our family is totally okay. We’re healthy, we’re in a comfortable, safe, warm home, we can work from home, Amelie’s schooling isn’t being too negatively affected, we have enough food and getting more is pretty straightforward…but it’s still not easy! To me it feels harder than last time, which I think speaks to how quickly I’d got used to ‘normal’ life again (I know – what a privilege!) It’s just very wearying, isn’t it? That’s one of my takeaways. Global pandemics are quite tiring.

Amelie also seems to be finding it harder. I think that’s the difference between being three and being nearly five. Her friends are much more important to her than they were last April, and not seeing them is hard for her. As much as it pains me to say it, we’re also becoming less important to her –which is normal and a part of growing up but doesn’t feel great to admit! She’s doing a good job generally but she is definitely getting bored of us.

I read a couple of articles over the weekend that did make me feel a bit calmer about the whole situation. Both were shared by Jess Kirby in her weekly reading roundup – if you don’t read her blog already I recommend it! The first is a story from the New York Times about what we know about Covid-19 vaccinations, breakthrough infections and the Delta variant. It was reassuring to read a reminder that even with Delta, breakthrough infections for those who are fully vaccinated are likely to result only in mild symptoms. I’m fully vaccinated, Hayden is halfway there, and anyone over 30 can book their vaccinations in now! We had a slow start to the vaccination programme here but it seems to be taking off now, and I’m so pleased about that. Being vaccinated doesn’t make me feel bulletproof at all – I am immunocompromised and it’s entirely possible my immune response to the vaccine will be less than the response of someone who has a normal immune system – but having lots of people get vaccinated definitely makes me feel safer overall. It’s also just good reading a round-up of what we know. We (humanity, that is!) really have learned so much about this virus over the last 20 months.

The second article is from The Atlantic and it’s about how we could live with the coronavirus forever, and what that might look like (spoiler alert: not like this global state of emergency, you’ll be glad to hear). It feels pretty pertinent right now – there are lots of vocal people in New Zealand right now getting tetchy about the lockdown and asking if this is what we’re going to do forever, and this article really summarises the ‘no, of course not, you dimwit’ feeling that inadvertently comes over me whenever I see a headline conveying such sentiments. Because although it’s almost certain that Covid-19 is now an illness that the world will have forever, in the words of the article, “it won’t be eliminated but it won’t upend our lives anymore.” Just like the common cold doesn’t mean restrictions and lockdowns, one day, Covid-19 won’t either.

As The Atlantic article makes clear, what we need most right now is time. Enough time to get everyone vaccinated, including children once the appropriate dosage is determined, and reduce this pandemic to something much smaller through the increased immunity that brings us all, while minimising the negative effects (like hospitals becoming overwhelmed, too many people dying unnecessarily, and people being unduly affected by long Covid). Time is exactly what New Zealand is buying right now, for the price of a short, sharp lockdown. In the future, when we have higher rates of immunity and we know even more about the virus, treatment for it, and immunity to it, the calculation will look different and so our response can be different as well. And even though right now it’s hard, for me the first lockdown was absolutely worth it for the year of relative normality that followed it, and this lockdown will be worth it as well. I find this very soothing to remember.

This feels like a positive pandemic thought to end on! I hope everyone is doing okay. Enjoy the 1pm update…!

2 thoughts on “Pandemic thoughts

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