Auckland in lockdown yesterday . . . “If we see another whānau or bubble, we keep our distance.”

This is a year of extremes, isn’t it? One minute we’re moaning about clogged-up motorways. Next minute we’re all on home detention. 

We’re at Level 4 now. You’d have to live under a rock to not know that. But some people do. Harvey, one of my mates, says a neighbour wanted a lift. He wanted to get his fix of meth. When Harvey said: “No, we’re in lockdown,” his buddy wanted to know why. 

I suppose it’s not surprising. There’s always been a disconnect between most of us and the addicted, the most vulnerable. I guess some of us have been in a bubble for way too long.  

Anyway, the good news is that a crisis like this will bring out the best in most of us. We have a prime minister who is simply astounding. Ashley Bloomfield, who heads the Ministry of Health, is a rock star too.

They’ve been fronting up, day after day, with the official figures and advice for us. It’s scary territory but these two both speak clearly and calmly. They give us the facts. They don’t overpromise or gloss over the challenges. They outline each new step ahead of time to give us a chance to process it all.

And putting Simon Bridges in charge of a group to provide oversight of government actions was absolutely the right thing to do, too. 

It’s not just the top dogs. There are plenty of stories about neighbourhoods connecting up, about families looking out for those who’re on their own, and about decent people wanting to share their own good fortune with others. My brother reckons he’s had more virtual party invitations this weekend than ever before.

This crisis has also drawn attention to the inequities in our society. Issues that many have been harping on about for years. Issues that have led to the overwhelmingly negative outcomes for Māori and Pacific people, right across the board. So it’s heartening to see the government dig a little deeper to address this. 

And, hopefully, that extra help won’t stop once this pandemic is contained. 

But this crisis is also exposing those who feel the most entitled. Who believe themselves to be exceptions to the rule — even when their actions may damage others. We’ll be hearing plenty of stories about their greed, and about the other morons, as we try to cope with Covid-19.

Just last night, there were people having a party on the beach below us. The smoke from their fire meant that about 15 locals who volunteer as our firefighters had to leave their bubbles. In another part of Auckland, people were playing touch. And my sister in Rotorua watched her neighbours across the road sharing drinks after building a fence.

It could be that we look back on 2020 as the Year of the Bubble. Understandably, the PM and every expert in the health business want us to act like we’re contaminated and don’t want to pass the virus on. 

So I see that my mission now (and for maybe a good many weeks to come) is to stay in my bubble so I don’t pop yours. 

Seems simple, eh? But with so much info pouring out, you could be forgiven for being confused. 

So here, after checking back with the experts — Dr Sue Crengle and Dr Siouxsie Wiles — is my letter to the whānau.

Kia ora whānau,

Our new normal is aukati and rāhui. Let’s just keep to the immediate whānau. No extended rellies for now. Forget whānau whānui — in our present circumstances, there can be no whānui about it. 

No aunties or sisters or cousins popping in. You’re now living in your own little bubble. When it comes to physical interaction between your household and other humans, just think of what we used to hear Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing:

Islands in the stream . . . That is what we are 

Right now, you and your household are that island. You may have a sister living by herself that you care for, or you may share custody of a child. As long as these two households become absorbed into a single bubble and live in the same community, all good.

To keep the virus from entering our borders, we need to be scrupulous with our cleaning. We clean our phones and laptops. Kitchen benches and table tops. Door handles. 

We can still go outside. To garden, walk,  cycle, or jog just around our block. We can’t drive to the park outside of our neighbourhood to jog. We have to keep it local. You want fresh air? Open the door and breathe deeply. Have a picnic in your garden. No driving anywhere as a rule. We must think of ourselves as an infected island. And only ever move within our bubble. If we see another whānau or bubble, we keep our distance. 

As rule, no surfing, no fishing, no hunting expeditions, or anything that could possibly go belly up. It’s not about the rights and freedom of the individual. This is about protecting the lives of others who may need to rescue or help you. You need to stay inside to protect their bubble. 

Every bubble needs one wingman. That’s one nominated person per household who’ll go out only when it’s absolutely essential — like getting groceries or picking up a prescription. Or they may be classed as an essential worker.

But that one person needs to stick to the two-metre rule. Hey, double that, and try to wrap all that mahi up in the one outing. They need to stick to handwashing and cleaning rules when they’re at work or at the doctors.

And when they come back into their bubble — and before they interact with anyone else in the bubble — they need to shower, and wash their hair and clothes, particularly if there’s a kaumātua or a sick person in the whare. Essential workers should have their own crockery and cutlery.

Forget tātou tātou for now. No pinching anyone else’s towels or sheets. Pimp your cleaning and constant hand washing.

Also, we need to ensure that all those kaumātua who are eligible have their flu vaccinations. GPs are still doing them, so ring in and ask. Nan gets her own bedroom too. 

Anyone who’s sick gets their own room. That’s going to be tricky for big families in overcrowded houses but we must put a rāhui around any sick whanaunga.

Sick kids? You can still awhi them, but keep it to under 15 minutes at a time. Wash their hands and yours before and after your awhi. No awhi for sick adults. They’re off dishes duty. Spoil them with room service and time out. Give lots of love, just no touching at all. Have a garage party outside their room. Take a leaf from the Italians and whip out a waiata. 

Whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and aroha will get us through. And mātauranga

But when in doubt? Stick it out. At home.

Arohanui, Moana

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