Comment. This is the front page of the print edition of The New Zealand Herald Tuesday March 24, 2020.
History will consider this one of the most pivotal moments in our nationhood: We are in lockdown as we collectively fight Covid-19.
Today is not a day for fear. Instead, it is a day for courage and compassion; a day when we must commit to come together for the benefit of our nation and our population of almost five million.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday confirmed the inevitable. She announced extraordinary measures she said would give us our best chance of avoiding tens of thousands of deaths from Covid-19. Today the country is at alert level 3; tomorrow we will shift to 4 – the highest level.
Schools and all but essential businesses will close. For almost all of us, close human contact will be limited to those we live with. Those restrictions, she says, will likely last for at least four weeks. They will rightly be enforced because flouting them will threaten lives.
The next four weeks – and likely more beyond – will be testing. But this is a nation that was repeatedly shown its resilience. We have survived through international conflicts; domestic disasters; natural and otherwise; we have weather global financial storms; and we have done it with bravery and spirit.
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Yet some people will be worried. They may be elderly; vulnerable or alone. They may be young. They may be somewhere in between. A society is judged by how it looks after those who need help, and all of us who can must do our bit. As Ardern suggested, that may be as simple as making a phone call to check in on a neighbour.
Nor should we be afraid to ask for help. Even the strongest amongst us will need reassurance.
Today we need to care that much more – about each other and the New Zealand that will emerge when Covid-19 is beaten.
Because we will beat it. This is our time to make history.