NewsOp-ed

A student’s perspective on COVID-19 and the current global crisis

Written by Raya ‘Tiger’ Hotter (age 14, 11/12 Years)

“COVID-19.” Probably one of the most uttered words in the world at the moment. You might be surprised, however, to learn COVID-19 is an acronym.

It stands for Coronavirus Disease of 2019. Yep. 2019. It’s almost as if it was supposed to be last year’s virus. And it feels like we’ve all been cheated somehow. 2020 was all set up to be The Big Year, in which each and every one of us began climbing our way towards incredible personal goals, leaving the mess that was 2k19 (I’m thinking the devastating mosque attacks, White Island, climate change being keenly felt around the world), behind.

Instead, 2019 seems to have followed us like a shadow, gripping on tight and being dragged along into 2020, making this The Big Year of Cancellations, in which we all sit at home and worry about our grandparents or awkwardly sidestep our neighbours on the street.

The day we heard about the lockdown was the weirdest. Fifth period on a Monday, halfway through Te Reo class. We heard screams from the classroom next door and before any of us could dash off to investigate, people began yelling out their guesses. Several insisted that school was ‘cancelled’, so Whaea pulled up the Press Conference – and sure enough, we were going into lockdown; school would close. We cleared out our lockers and comforted those who were having panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. A teacher had to stand out the front of the school to tell us all off for hugging.

It’s a tough time for everyone right now. I’m not finding things particularly easy at the moment and I’m one of the really lucky ones – I’ve got a house, food and wifi. What about the people who are losing their jobs? What about the people who don’t have enough money for basic needs? What about the people who have compromised immunity or underlying health conditions, who are therefore more at risk and have even more to worry about? I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be going through that right now but I know it must be horrible.

A big round of applause, however, to all of the essential services out there, particularly our amazing healthcare workers. I personally believe that they should all get medals, just like our great grandparents did when they went to war – this is a war, right now, against coronavirus.

Speaking of war, who went out onto their driveways at 6am on Anzac Day? I managed to drag my whole family – including my cat – outside and we stood by the letterbox, acknowledging our neighbours (who we could barely see) with a nod. One of the neighbours down the road had their radio playing, so we could hear the Dawn Service broadcast (which was incredibly helpful, as I have no idea what we would have done otherwise). When the National Anthem came on, my family and I began to sing along. (I wish I could say we did so proudly, but in truth, we kind of just crooned it rather pathetically, for fear of disturbing anyone who was still sleeping).

So, yeah, quite a unique Anzac Day for all of us. But Anzac Day isn’t the only thing that’s been different this year. The lockdown measures have forced many Kiwis to get creative – something, I daresay, that we’re rather good at. A big cheer for the businesses who are spicing things up and bouncing innovative ideas off of each other. So far we’ve seen factories being repurposed to assist those on the frontline of the pandemic, an egg farmer in Dunedin setting up a website to sell eggs in a contactless way and a restaurant owner making his restaurant social-distancing-friendly. Well done to all of the teachers and students who are still diligently carrying on with their work online – oh, forget it, well done to everyone. You’re all doing an amazing job. (Except those who have broken lockdown rules – THEY’RE THERE FOR A REASON). Especially Jacinda Ardern – I think she has handled this marvellously. Lockdown, while an inconvenience for many (myself included) does, ultimately, save thousands of lives.

I’ve seen a lot of articles drifting about the internet about how to keep myself occupied during said lockdown. As a Year 11 (first year of NCEA, yay), I actually have quite a lot to occupy myself with already – assignment, revision, assessments (the show must go on, according to NZQA) – but I’ve found that a good way to cope is to look forward to the little things. Pre-COVID-19, I would split my week up, getting excited for kung fu on Thursdays, or going to my dad’s house on Sunday’s. Now, I split my day up, getting excited about things like lunchtime, my cat finally reaching my room after her daily ritual of following the sun all around the house, or my ab workout in the evening (bro, I’d better have the rock-solid-est six-pack by the time this is all over). It’s the little things that really make a difference.

Every day, our principal sends us a video message. I go to classes via Google Meet and complete the (MASSIVE LOAD of) work my teachers set me. My friends chat to me by text or, if we’ve got time, we do a quick Zoom meeting to catch up (though if I’m being honest, there’s not much to catch up on). My sister and I run around the block so we stay fit (ish). I try to make it to my Zoom kung fu classes. Thursday’s lunch is typically homemade sushi. It’s a monotonous lifestyle for the moment but it’s not unpleasant.

Days all rolling into one? I suggest trying to have little highlights or things that you can tweak to make each day unique. Try working in a different room of the house, walking to the other end of the street for a change, make something fancy for lunch, or give someone you haven’t spoken to in a while a call after work.

All that stuff about how crisis brings people together? Not poppycock, as I had first imagined. Though we’re all separated by front doors and social distancing rules, NZ is more united than ever. Whenever I see people in the street, instead of awkwardly avoiding their eyes, now I say hi and ask them how they are (from a distance, of course), regardless of whether I know them or not.

I feel it even in my own family. Anxiety about coronavirus has forced me to actually talk to my relatives and it turns out, they’re not actually all that bad! (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I’ve always liked my family. Most of ‘em, anyway). I regularly check up on my grandparents, talking to them at least once a week, and somehow, despite the fact that we’re all in lockdown and there’s not much really happening, we talk for longer than we ever did before. My dad and I text each other “good morning” and “good night” each day, something which we certainly never used to do.

Another thing about being in lockdown is you actually see how much people care about you – and they get to see how much you care about them. My big brother keeps sending me pestering texts, asking if he can call me – which is a very strange thing to witness as usually, I’m the one doing that. When we learnt that our grandparents were going for regular bike rides and car journeys, my eight-year-old little sister lectured them, for almost ten minutes, about the importance of staying home and not participating in activities that could potentially end in injuries. What if, we reasoned, Nana fell off of her bike and had to go to the hospital? And stay in your bubble, Pops!

Let’s not forget the positive effects lockdown has on the environment. With everyone staying at home in their bubbles, there are fewer fumes from cars and more deserted areas for animals. With most of the world in lockdown, the beaches are deserted, leaving more space for turtles, mountain goats have ‘overtaken’ a town in Wales and many cities have been reported as being ‘rewilded’ by wildlife.

This whole pandemic has, understandably, caused a considerable amount of worry, panic and anxiety. People are scared. The other day, we got a package delivered (which I was unbelievably excited about, which I took the trouble to inform many) and the delivery person ran away so fast that I didn’t even get to say thank you. All I saw was a flash of yellow, our gate clanged, and then the package was there and they were gone. We received another package two days later and this time I sprinted to the window, flung it open and called “thank you!” before the delivery person could run off.

It’s interesting how quickly odd things become the new norm. Before Jacinda Ardern announced we were going into lockdown, I remember asking heaps of people in class – “Do you think that school will close?” Pretty much everyone said no. It was hard to believe that all of NZ would go home and stay home. But here we are.

I used to laugh at my mum every time we went for a walk and she would hiss “someone’s coming – quick, step to the side!” Now, however, is a different story. When I spot someone walking their dog towards me, I immediately freeze and have a private, silent debate with myself over whether should step onto the road to avoid them or continue walking and force them to walk on the road.

It’s hard to look into the future at a time like this. (Heck, it’s painful to even try and think about what’s going to be for dinner tomorrow, let alone wonder how on earth my end-of-year external exams are going to work). The whole world seems to be resting on some miracle vaccine. I just hope that when one is finally discovered, the person who discovers it is kind enough to share it with the rest of the world. We can’t go forward without a vaccine. Until we get one, everything else is just a temporary measure. We’re just waiting. So shout out and good luck to the amazing scientists across the world, working around the clock to find one.

Rest in peace, those we have lost during and to COVID-19.

And to anyone out there struggling during this incredibly weird period, I would like to say that I sincerely hope that things get better for you soon and you can reach out to someone for help – not physically, of course – stay two metres away, people! To everyone else – be kind to yourself, your bubble-mates, that kid across the street, and kia kaha (be strong). New Zealand will get through this, just like we always do.

Looking forward to Level 2 – next week maybe? Whichever way we go, we’re gonna be in safe hands. I don’t know about you, but I can wait a bit longer.

School News

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