Sophie turned to me before leaving for school today, holding her scooter at the ready and sharing an excited smile. “Mum, Mum. Today’s the day I can hug my friends again”.
Our pavements are no-longer decorated with yellow crosses to mark mandatory social distance. The sign in registers are diminishing too. We’ve been subject to so many rules. We’ve been so very compliant. It’s hard to believe we’ve actually done it. We’re in Level 1.
We’re used to our small nation punching above our weight. But this achievement, putting us ahead of world heavyweights in the Americas and Europe, feels all a little surreal. Bringing it home for us is knowing we have family and friends who’re still in the thick of the battle. Around 250 New Zealand citizens are returning home each day to a fortnight of quarantine. Add to that list the 10,000 or so people on working visas who’ve made a life for themselves in New Zealand, currently trapped overseas and sitting further down the queue. Who knows when family from afar will be able to visit? Infection rates are back on the increase in parts of the UK and there’s still much international conjecture about the Swedish experiment. All in all it feels like gloating to get to excited when we cast our eyes to the outside world.
We have our public health but our economy will undergo structural change. Some businesses will be gone forever. But we’ve been banging on about our low rates of productivity for a long time. Here’s the chance to be bold and brave, to make new things here and to try new ways of delivering services to ourselves and the world. There’s been a record number of new businesses registered with the Companies Office. Perhaps this is because many people have lost their jobs and have nothing to lose. There’s a whiff of caution to the wind.
The Great Walks are taking bookings today. How many of those kiwis who’ve cancelled international travel realise just how unbelievable this country is. I hope there’s many. I hope we keep going with our gains. Ride bikes more, walk with family more, work from home when we can because damn it makes sense to cut out the commute and get smarter with our time.
We need a collective pledge to look after the asset that mother nature has given us too. Marvel at glow worm caves, geysers and beaches where you can boil an egg in a stream and dig out your own hot pool on the shore. Things you won’t find in many places on planet earth. This is before we get talking about lakes, mountains and glaciers, all in a country where its entire border is a magnificent stretch of coastline.
But we’re antibody naïve in a world that’s still infected. We’ll remain a bubble of 5 million for now. We can enjoy the spoils our success, but never forget to appreciate what we already had.