When she arrived in New Zealand in February Jazz Carr thought she would be studying anthropology.
Instead, she learned how to live in isolation.
A month after she set foot on the island nation, the Barrie-native had a decision to make – return to Canada or hunker down to ride out the Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand.
She chose to stay.
“You only were allowed to leave your house if you were going to get medicine prescriptions, doctors’ appointments…or you were going to get groceries,’ says Carr. “Other than that, you were technically allowed to walk around your neighbourhood, but police would stop to ask where you lived, just to make sure you were in your neighbourhood.”
Carr says everyone had to stay within their own ‘bubble’; their immediate house. If they did go for a drive, police would often stop them to check where they were going to or coming from.
“She’s been absolutely killing it”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to lock things down, says Carr. “She’s so amazing, she’s been absolutely killing it…she’s very relatable. She’ll go on her news conferences and have her pyjamas on and things like that and says ‘I know, I have kids at home, they want to go to the park, we’ll get through this’.” Carr says Ardern is very reassuring, “even if you don’t understand why they’re doing it, you have trust in her.”
It’s been 17 days since the last reported case on the south island where Carr is living and two days in a row with no new cases country-wide.
With that, Carr says they are now allowed to travel within their city limits. Beaches are no longer off-limits, and surfing – a popular pastime in New Zealand – is no longer banned.
Still, there are precautions.
At grocery stores, the conveyor and glass partitions are wiped down after every customer. Groceries are taken from one cart, rung through, then placed in a second, sanitized cart for you to take to your car. Prior to the full lockdown, Carr says when she went to get coffee they would take down her name, address and phone number. She expects that will continue.
Physical distancing has been harshly judged. “Everyone has really been keeping their distance and you get a little bit shamed if you’re not.” New Zealanders, says Carr, willingly accepted the edict, able to see light at the end of the tunnel knowing they are a small island nation secluded from ‘the outside world’.
“I went to the beach!”
The first thing Carr did when the lockdown was lifted was go to the beach. “There were a lot of six-foot waves to people on the beach and different ‘bubbles’ setting up their blankets ten-feet apart.”
Carr expects to hear in the coming days that New Zealand will take further steps toward normalization which may include allowing gatherings of up to 100 people.
If that happens, she and the other international students sequestered nearby joke about having a huge hugging line.
“We just want to hug each other again.”
images courtesy Jazz Carr