Lockdown in New Zealand
Sam Tuitupou recently spent just under 3 weeks in New Zealand, travelling out in the second half of March to catch up with the four of his children still living there with his sister, and for a planned trip to meet with a number of local players about their European rugby ambitions.
Arriving in New Zealand to a raft of new entry measures including health questionnaires, the airport was unbelievably busy with people coming home from all over the world. With instructions to self-isolate for 14 days in a form of quarantine, Sam decamped to an available unit at the back of his sister’s place.
The true seriousness of the situation hit when 48 hours after arriving, New Zealand were ordered into full scale lockdown and told to ‘stay in their own bubble’. “It felt a bit like being plunged into a movie,” commented Sam. “All of a sudden everyone’s in quarantine, not just me, with a mandatory 2m social distancing rule for people from different household.”
With plenty of space around the property though, Sam was able to train daily together with but at a distance from his own four and his sister’s eight kids. One of the hardest bits for Sam was not being able to hug his mum, who lives next door: “Mum is rightly very keen to keep to the social distance rule, so it wasn’t until the full 14 day quarantine was complete that we could safely spend time together.”
Going back to New Zealand always takes a bit of adjustment – little differences like everyone you pass on the street will say hello. “Liz tells me people will think I’m weird if I do that in the UK,” Sam laughed. “but even with 5 or 6 of us walking down the street 2m apart from each other, and moving round to pass others at a safe distance, everyone still greets each other!”
It does feel to Sam that New Zealanders are taking the lockdown more seriously than other places, especially coming home to a simple cabin crew announcement on social distancing rather than more stringent checks. Perhaps as the coronavirus arrived there later, the government were able to learn lessons from other countries and put effective measures in place more quickly.
Getting home in itself was a challenge, with massive queues at the airport to clear additional health testing dictating that only those flying were allowed in the building. It took a while to find a flight, but Liz eventually found one and Sam arrived back in the UK at the end of last weekend.