Northern Advocate reporter Julia Czerwonatis returned to her home town in Germany this month, but has cut her holiday short to return home after Germany, and much of Europe, went into lockdown over Covid-19. She gives a first-hand account of how the virus crisis is affecting her homeland.
"We are at war." Since President Emmanuel Macron addressed the French with this statement earlier this week, I can hear people saying the same thing everywhere.
I've listened to some first-person accounts about the war from my great-grandmother, and, while I don't think we're quite there yet, I understand why this pandemic reminds people of those dark days.
Germany is going into lockdown, and I'm in the midst of it. I had booked the flights to Germany months ago – long before anyone had heard about Covid-19. It had been more than a year since I last saw my whānau.
I'm an only child of an only child in a tight-knit family, and I'm expecting a baby, so it was time to see my mum and dad, and my grandparents again.
Little did I know how complicated this trip would become.
In the days before my departure, I rigorously followed the German news to ensure I wouldn't put myself at risk.
Flights were confirmed, the situation in both New Zealand and Germany evolving but stable and so I flew.
The first shock came mid-air when Jacinda Ardern announced that everyone had to put themselves into self-isolation upon return to New Zealand. Since I've landed, the situation in Germany has grown more acute by the hour.
Within four days of me being here, governments around the globe have taken extreme steps which my family and I are watching with worry.
Schools, museums, hotels, bars and even playgrounds closed down here.
While air travel in and out of Germany is still allowed (at this stage), all borders to neighbouring countries are being controlled.
Only those with a valid reason for travel are allowed to pass. There is currently a 60km traffic jam near the German-Polish border.
My lively hometown, Rostock, has gone quieter, the supermarket shelves are unusually empty – especially of fresh produce.
You can hardly see people touching. When no one is shaking hands any more, you know it's serious, because Germans simply love it.
When I catch up with friends, there's this awkward moment; hug or no hug? It's a hard decision to make when you haven't seen them for what feels like forever.
Most shop assistants I came across in the past few days looked even grumpier than they usually do – quite the achievement for a German. Today, all shops remained shut.
A curfew is only a matter of time; some places in Bavaria are already enforcing it. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, drug stores and banks remain open.
The people who look busiest these days are the couriers who run from door to door, delivering to people who don't dare to go outside.
Behind closed doors, parents have to provide creativity and patience as their children remain home. Teachers attempt to prepare virtual classrooms – a challenge for German schools which, compared with New Zealand, have not quite caught up with the digital age.
A silver lining though – you hear many reports about solidarity within the community. And, according to German media, condom sales doubled in the last month.
If people don't follow all restrictions, the German government fears the country could have up to 10 million infected.
Luckily though, Germans take pride in being lawful and honouring all rules. Currently, Germany has 11,302 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 27 dead.
Hospitals are still operating within their capacities but are waiting for many more patients in the coming weeks. Hotels and convention centres are being repurposed as ad hoc hospitals with the help of the German army.
Meanwhile, central and federal governments dig deep into their pockets to keep the books in the black and ensure businesses survive the standstill.
Rostock, where I am currently, is a small northern harbour town – not unlike Whangārei – and located in a rural region with a lot of farms and tourist businesses along the coastline.
The federal state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is the poorest in the country and, without sufficient financial aid, many business owners are facing fears they will go bust.
My mum works as a sales rep for a country-wide cosmetic company. She tries to convince her clients, mostly beauticians who had to close their salons, to offer home deliveries, so they sell at least some products and keep their businesses running.
Walking around town, I noticed several stores encouraging their customers to shop online.
People adapt in all kinds of ways. And while many steps German chancellor Angela Merkel has taken in these past few days sound frightening and spark memories of war times, they are mostly precautionary.
Merkel, the Mother of the Nation as we call her, is as always guiding her people conservatively and with a steady hand.
As for me, I was on hold with my airlines for more than three hours today and rebooked my flight, cutting my visit short by 10 days.
Many meet-ups and short trips I had planned are not happening any more, which is painful considering how relatively close I am now to my friends and family.
But, after lengthy discussions, I was granted a special permit to visit my great-grandmother in her rest home. I won't be able to touch or embrace her.
However, I can only show her my puku from afar with her great-great-grandchild growing inside.
I'll ask her, but I'm pretty sure she'll say the actual war was worse than Covid-19.