Coronavirus

What Life Feels Like Once Lockdown Lifts, According to New Zealand

New Zealand is close to being "back to normal". But what even is "normal" post-lockdown?
26 May 2020, 3:30am
Lockdown Over New Zealand Coronavirus Pandemic
Lead image by Sian Bradley

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Here in the UK we've been under lockdown since the 23rd of March. How those two months have panned out will depend on your situation. For some it's meant being out of a job, rattling aimlessly around the flat with inexplicably tangerine hair. For others it's meant fleeing to a "second home” in the countryside and waiting "for all of this to blow over”. For key workers it's meant putting their lives at risk in order to provide essential services. Either way, "before" feels like forever ago. Remember when life was more than "going to the shops"? Me neither.

That said, there is now an end in sight – or the government seems to think so, at least. We're allowed "unlimited exercise" and "sunbathing". Schools might re-open on the 1st of June. People are now having BBQs and doing conga lines and acting like there isn't an ongoing infectious virus which spreads through physical touch (as one person put it on Twitter: “Just bc you annoyed or tired with the virus don't mean it's over lmao”). But yeah, if Boris Johnson's timeline pans out, we could be "back to normal" by September, whatever that even means.

But what is post-lockdown life going to feel like? If there's anyone who knows right now, it's those living in New Zealand. We've already asked those across Europe, but with New Zealand being one of the only countries to have gotten their coronavirus cases down to zero, and with clubs, bars and restaurants etc opening as a result, they seem to be further along the line than anywhere else. We thought we'd ask them what to expect once the UK makes (hopefully very tentative) steps to follow suit.

THE FIRST THING YOU'LL DO IS PROBABLY LOAD UP ON TREATS

Fry ups, takeaway toasties, big frothy coffees that you don't have to queue up for 45 minutes for – there are things you'll have missed which will suddenly become readily available. “As soon as we entered 'Level 2' (meaning the economy had fully opened up again) I went and got myself a take away coffee and looked through my favourite charity shop,” October, 23, tells me. “Pure bliss!”

Kayleigh, 24, did a similar thing as soon as lockdown eased up. “I ordered a massive pizza and ate it in bed while watching Easy A,” she says. “I live in shared accommodation with about 200 others and had been cooking for myself in a socially-distanced kitchen for five weeks, so it felt luxurious to have food made for me. Also, I felt like I needed to support local businesses who had been totally shut due to lockdown as much as possible.”

YOUR SOCIAL LIFE WILL ALSO GET REALLY BUSY AT FIRST

Remember at the beginning of lockdown when you lined up back-to-back Zoom quizzes and DJ parties and FaceTime "catch ups" with people you barely spoke to in the first place? Yeah when lockdown lifts it will be kind of like that, but IRL.

“In terms of private gatherings, we're now allowed to hang out with friends and family in groups of up to ten people, so it's been a busy week of catch ups for many Kiwis,” explains Alexx, 28.

Emma, 26, agrees: “I've been meeting up with people that I haven't seen in what feels like forever. I don't have family here, so it's just been me and my boyfriend until now. Being able to hug people and hear how they've gotten on has been unreal! I'm sure the social fatigue will set in soon – I'm being way more social than before – but for now I'm enjoying it.”

BUT YOU WON'T BE CLUBBING ANY TIME SOON

Maybe you've been fantasising about stumbling into a club at 1AM, crying when the beat drops, making out with some randomer on the dancefloor. Yeah, that's not going to be happening anytime soon – at least if New Zealand is anything to go by. “Bars have been allowed to reopen but with pretty strict measures in place – they need to have patrons seated, separated, with one server per table,” explains Alexx. “This basically means clubs as we know them are still not able to open how they normally would – there's no way a dance floor can operate with social distancing!”

October, 23, echoes Alexx: “Clubbing sounds near non-existent until we don’t have to social distance any more! What’s the point of clubbing unless you can get up close 'n' personal with the cutie you’ve had your eyes on all night!”

Besides, clubbing won't really be a 'vibe' at first. It'll feel a bit much, having so many people sweating and crammed in together. “I personally have no desire to go clubbing and be in a room full of strangers at the moment, but I'm grateful that I can catch up with friends and family over a coffee, brunch or a walk,” adds Alexx.

CORONAVIRUS ANXIETY ISN'T GOING TO DISAPPEAR OVERNIGHT

When lockdown eases, it probably won't be a case of everyone's anxiety immediately lifting and life returning to how it was before. Especially in somewhere like the UK, where confusion and mistrust surrounding our "way out| of lockdown abounds.

Even in New Zealand, where they've essentially eliminated the virus, anxiety persists. Not just surrounding health, but in relation to the economy. “Now we've seemingly tackled the health crisis, most people are acutely aware of the impact that this is going to have on our economy, so I'd say the general vibe is still a bit wary about what's coming next in terms of unemployment, financial stability and some of NZ's most important industries like tourism,” says Alexx.

“I’m a key worker and worked throughout the lockdown, so at first I was really nervous about restrictions being lifted, especially with things like regional travel now being allowed,” Kayleigh adds. “It felt like we had just barely got things under control. That said, it makes life outside of work much happier: I’m now able to go on long walks and sit down outside without being moved along by police, there’s the possibility of taking trips to other parts of the country on my days off, and importantly, I can get takeaway Nando’s whenever I want.”

@daisythejones