Kiwi Michael Anderson is currently in Hamburg with his German partner.
OPINION: It’s been one month since it was ‘Hasta Luego’ (see you later) from Ecuador and ‘Moin Moin’ (hello) to Hamburg in northern Germany. It has been a similar amount of time since New Zealand confirmed new cases of community transmission of Covid-19 and now seems like a timely opportunity to give an outsider’s perspective.
When it comes to accepting advice from people outside a country about a country, I usually think that it’s best left unsaid because the outsider doesn’t know the conditions inside.
However on this occasion it’s worth saying something from the outside because fatigue and negativity towards the new alert level restrictions and Government decisions will lead New Zealand towards Covid-19 mismanagement and that will be the fault of the people, not the Government.
Basically New Zealand, don’t blow it now, keep up the fight.
*Coronavirus: Stuck in Indonesia, we’re dreaming of life back in New Zealand
*Coronavirus: Our family sabbatical in Colombia has opened our eyes to the ‘other side’
*Just squeaked through: Travelling to Wellington from US during a pandemic
My German partner and I got locked down in Ecuador, a harrowing time where the city of Guayaquil got completely overwhelmed with a collapsed health infrastructure that had dead bodies on the street. The death to case ratio is still currently around 10 per cent and the numbers are generally accepted by scholars to be six times higher than official figures.
In total we were in enforced and voluntary lockdown from March 15 until July 30. The voluntary part came because from June 15 there was some freedom, but I challenge you to go out into a high-risk Covid-19 area with a collapsed health system in a poor country and see if you feel good about it.
We were finally able to fly out July 30 because I could get in to Germany – sort of.
New Zealand is on Europe’s safe list but only when coming from New Zealand. I wasn’t allowed into Spain where our flight landed, but I was allowed to transit Spain to outside the EU. Turkey was open so we went there.
Meanwhile we confirmed with Luxembourg that they didn’t care where I came from because my New Zealand passport was enough. I was definitely not allowed into Germany, but because the land borders were not being checked we knew we could take the train to enter the country.
After one week I became legal a week earlier than anticipated due to a successful ‘Love is not Tourism’ movement that allowed partners of German citizens into the country.
What I have noticed in Germany so far has been very surprising – an extremely relaxed attitude towards the virus. One place we went for dinner was stressing to us that masks are not essential and we didn’t have to wear them. That doesn’t seem to be prudent advice in a country currently at 1000 cases a day and rising.
This leads me to my overall point, my overall plea. Please New Zealand, listen to the Government. They are doing exactly the right thing, they are recommending exactly the right steps. I know this because I’ve been through it. I’m only ever this passionate about cricket, that’s how serious I am and that I know through experience that what the Government is doing and suggesting is absolutely 100 per cent right.
I know this because Guayaquil became the first city in the developing world to get the virus under control. Authorities there attacked the problem by supplying food and masks to the poor neighbourhoods in order to stop people going out. The pandemic hits poor countries worse because people cannot afford to stay home, so the city government of Guayaquil made sure they were able to stay home.
In Guayaquil you will not see a single person without a mask because they know how bad it can be. They also know that the mask is about protecting others, not themselves. I doubt Kiwis will have the same ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ approach as America and Australia seem to have in abundance, but just remember that you asserting your right to be an individual by not wearing a mask is also impacting on the right to safety of the others you are around and passing in the street.
Rights come with responsibilities.
Also a message to the naysayers out there who still like to point at the statistics and say it’s only as bad as the ‘flu, remember this – the numbers are what they are with most of the world taking it seriously and putting in the effort to slow it down and eliminate it. Imagine if none of that existed.
I can point once again to Guayaquil in Ecuador with 17,936 cases and 1664 deaths (early August figures). Those are not ‘flu-like numbers, and that’s the official count which is known to be about six times smaller than reality. Meanwhile in Germany they are travelling at 1000 cases a day and heading upwards.
Life is not fun deciding whether you feel like risking going out today, and swerving to avoid people on the street. Life is not fun knowing that this is the new normal for the foreseeable future. So that is why New Zealanders must listen to the Government because they have it exactly spot on, and you have the chance to go back to proper normality with a few weeks of hard work. You have the opportunity to be the leading light of the world again because the world is amazed at our leaders and our country.
I get told this every single time with every new person I meet and every new student I teach through my online teaching job. You’ve all worked so hard and just need to keep going. Europe has accepted long term restrictions, America has accepted setting itself on fire, South America can’t help it because poverty begets institutional failure in many cases.
You don’t have to accept any of this if you roll your sleeves up for a couple of weeks. The best team of five million anyone could have. Get after it!