Jaewynn McKay: Tackling the coronavirus pandemic as one

Wednesday March 25, 2020 Published in Editorials
Derek Fox and his moko Temahia at Mahia Peninsula, located on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. 20032410 Derek Fox and his moko Temahia at Mahia Peninsula, located on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. 20032410

In lockdown, especially in Maori and Pasifika households, which tend to have bigger and multigeneration families, new issues arise.

 

I know it’s hard to get past the topic of coronavirus, it’s everywhere, not least of all in our country. But we are right to take this all very seriously.

We should be listening to the messages from the Ministry of Health and Dr Aumea Herman and our Prime Minister and Puna leaders.

This is not a game and there is no rehearsal, which if we don’t get right we can go back and run through it again.

An outbreak here will have dreadful consequences for the very high percentage of vulnerable people in our community. So, please follow the advice being given and keep checking the Ministry of Health website for updates.

I’ve been pretty busy in the last couple of weeks helping out a dedicated team with providing good, timely and accurate communications about the steps our country is taking and need to take heed of; but like many of you I also have concerns about family overseas. In particular my father who’s in his late 80s, and my husband who went to a meeting of the governing board of his Ngati Porou iwi and has got caught up down on the east coast of the North Island and is now locked down there.

At night when my chores have ended for the day, or in the early morning I worry about them. They’re both in the vulnerable age group for Covid-19; the age group where the most deaths have occurred. And if you’ve got whanau in that cohort I know you’ll know what I mean.

From midnight last night New Zealand went into ‘lockdown’. That means that apart from essential workers, by law, New Zealanders are ordered to stay home. They’re not using the term – but New Zealand will be a state under police control. There will be a greater police, and possibly military presence on the streets. For ordinary citizens the only legitimate excuses to be out and about are to get food or medicines or to visit vulnerable relatives. People over 70 are being told to stay home, to isolate themselves. Younger people are being asked to help drop off food or other supplies to their elders – to the doorsteps.

The term ‘social distancing’ which made its way into our vocabulary is being discouraged in New Zealand now in favour of ‘physical distancing’. The authorities are urging people to maintain social contacts, but by phone, or online; recognising that cutting isolated people off from their friends and family is damaging. It’s not uncommon now – or at least before the lockdown – for adult children to shop for their elder parents and drop the supplies off at their gate; saying hello and swapping news in the process, but maintaining a physical separation.

In lockdown, especially in Maori and Pasifika households, which tend to have bigger and multigeneration families, new issues arise.

My husband is at our New Zealand home at a place called Opoutama at the base of the beautiful Mahia Pennisula. It’s isolated, which is a plus. Mostly it’s just he and the family dog in residence. But yesterday he collected his 32 year old daughter and her 11 year old son – a favourite mokopuna – from Gisborne an hour away – to hunker down with him for the quarantine period. Gisborne is the nearest city so they did a shop up, hopefully to last at least for most of the lockdown. 

Supermarkets are allowed to stay open during the lockdown, but you wouldn’t want to be driving to and from Gisborne too often to top up. Fortunately essentials like bread and milk should be available from the local garage/dairy a couple of hundred metres down the road.

The problem as he sees it is how his flatmates will handle the isolation. They visit from time to time on holiday. But this is different. He’s already had a ‘chat’ pointing out that just popping down to the shop to get a new cigarette lighter is not really on. Or popping over to the pub to get some hot chips isn’t on either, even if the pub was open – which it isn’t.

My dad lives alone in a townhouse in Royal Oak in Auckland. He’s only a short drive away from the Royal Oak shops; but I’m going to have to discourage him for ‘popping out’ for stuff too. At his age it could prove lethal. Fortunately in cities like Auckland and Gisborne it’s possible to order stuff online and have it delivered.

Not so at Opoutama. So you can see I have things to think about in my spare time as would many, if not all of you. I am often fearful that I may not see my soon to be 89 father again. And the only answer I can give our eight-year-old Tinirau when he asks “when’s papa (his dad) coming back?” are variations of these three words “I don’t know”. Be sensible people listen to the advice you are given, now is not the time to act flippantly, break the law or be a dick.

We are all in this together and we’ll only get over it together if we work together – pretty simple really.

 

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