We have measured 2020 in midnights. Every single alert level has been activated at 11.59pm and the very best one, the one we've been longing to hear since forever in the weird and threatening epoch of Covid-19, was quietly set off last night. New Zealand, released; New Zealand, returned to something very much resembling the good old normal.
Yeah all good bro except not quite. We're like creatures emerging from a cave. It feels strange. It feels like a nervous kind of peace. We can go about our business and go about our lives, except: don't go too far. The borders remain closed. You can check in at the QR code any time you want, but you can never leave.
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Oh and there's Dr Michael Baker, that expert in infectious diseases at the University of Otago, who has always been on hand during this crisis to say things are worse than you think. Just a few days ago he was agonising about our relaxed attitude towards face masks: "All we know about the biology of this virus says we're missing an essential barrier." He would look very good behind a zipped-up face mask.
But he's right of course. We're not out of the woods yet. There have been so many ugly little phrases in the language of Covid – "contact tracing", "self-isolation", etc – but just about the worst one has been the constant threat of "a second wave". We're told it's coming. We're told to expect it. Cheers, can't wait.
But we're here, we've got this far, and we're a hell of a lot better off than many other places in the world. Team of five million, minus the 22 killed by the virus, and, in some cases, that other ugly little phrase of Covidese, "underlying medical conditions".
Amazing that the figure isn't a lot worse. The virus arrived here with a lot of advance publicity about its prowess. It was billed as a perfect killing machine. It was hard to comprehend. "You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you," Ian Holm's mad scientist character says of the monster in the first Alien movie. "Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."
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We were all Sigourney Weaver's kick-ass character Lieutenant Ripley. We killed it, more or less, barring the second wave of a sequel. Yesterday was cinematic: the hear-ye, hear-ye announcement at 1pm that we had recorded a big fat zero of active Covid-19 cases was the axe that the Prime Minister was able to use to smash the frozen lake of level 2 at her 3pm press conference. The plot reached a climax at 11.59pm with the first icy, cool, clear waters of level 1.
We've made it. This is a great day in modern New Zealand history. Yeah all good bro, absolutely.