As the four-week lockdown nears, Kirsty Johnston catches up with those most at risk from the current crisis - the sick, the disabled, the elderly. From Helen making fruit loaf to Nikki preparing to look after her disabled kids with no carers, they tell us how the shutdown will affect their lives and health.

Erin Gough.

Wellington government worker, age 28. Uses a wheelchair and lives with two other mobility-impaired flatmates, and their cat Wilson.

It's hard to form coherent thoughts at the moment. I've had a very stressful couple of days - first I went to do laundry and my powerchair got a flat tyre. It's very inconvenient because it means I can't go anywhere. And it was ironic that it was on my one trip out of the house in three days - so I could clean my sheets - and that happens. But luckily I managed to get the tyre fixed an hour before Jacinda announced the lockdown, so I can at least get out for my socially distanced "strolls" now.

I also had to book a last-minute flight for a family member from Australia, which ended up costing nearly $900, which was… a lot.

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But fortunately my work is awesome - I needed some stuff from the office and my manager got her husband to drop it around - and they included some chocolate and some socks with sloths and donuts on them, what else could you ask for?

I don't think it's sunk in yet, what's happening. I have this real feeling of disbelief. The most similar feeling I can describe was how I felt watching the TV just after the earthquakes when I lived in Christchurch. Like, this massive thing has happened and it's not real. Although this is different in that it's global, and also invisible. With the earthquake you could see it and rationalise it in your mind. But this, people can't see it and it's hard.

Stace Robertson, Etta Bollinger and Erin Gough, at their Wellington flat with Wilson the cat. Photo / Supplied
Stace Robertson, Etta Bollinger and Erin Gough, at their Wellington flat with Wilson the cat. Photo / Supplied

I did feel the lockdown announcement was reassuring and proactive. Friends in other countries have leaders who haven't gone to this point so quickly, and the devastation has been done. I feel grateful for our leaders.

Our flat is going to isolate together, and we've got a plan for support workers coming in and out, about how to minimise contact and we've got some gloves. The support work is challenging - I have a friend in Christchurch that had about four workers coming in and she might have a family member move in instead. People are worried their workers might not feel confident to come, so they're making other plans.

Shopping is still a big thing. We're trying to get a delivery slot from what I've seen it probably won't be within the next week. I don't know how to get that message through to people, to stop filling up the slots. I heard the supermarkets might be doing something for disabled people but I don't know how that's going to work yet.

Read the first story in this ongoing series here.

But, despite feeling certain anxieties, I've really felt comforted by people rallying and wanting to help people out. We've had lots of offers from friends - and strangers - to drop stuff off and I feel really cared for and the sense of community is really strong.

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Kera Sherwood-O'Regan.

Auckland business owner who lives with fibromyalgia in a flat with other people with compromised immune systems. Kāi Tahu.

We're pretty lucky that our flat works really well together. We're a disability-friendly flat and all well supportive of each other and checking in with each other. For the foreseeable future we've organised my mum to do grocery drop-offs. With me having pneumonia and being more susceptible and the others being unwell too, our flat is going to be a closed whare.

"It sends a good message that it's not about how we each individually feel, but that we need to be working together for collective care" - Kera Sherwood-O'Regan on the lockdown. Photo / Jason Boberg

We did try to do grocery shopping but it was quite stressful. There were so many people and we were trying to keep a safe distance. Some people were giving a wide berth but others weren't as aware or concerned. We weren't able to get a huge amount so we are relying on my mum to drop stuff off. She's doing to do it for others in the fibromyalgia community. She's a real champion.

We had a laugh because she had prepared back in the day for the bird flu - and she still had her kit. So she's been able to dig into that and give us quite a lot, but we will have to check the expiry date.

The action being taken… I felt a bit of both. It sends a good message that it's not about how we each individually feel but that we need to be working together for collective care and the most important way to do that is staying home when we can.

But then there's the stresses of saying, do we have what we need for the next four weeks or whatever? The biggest stress was seeing how busy it got when things were announced. Lots of whanau aren't able to go and buy what they need for four weeks. I was thinking, do people have warm clothes or blankets and heaters as it gets colder? And thinking about the communities who are the most affected are likely to have other barriers to getting what they need.

But it was reassuring to know our grandparents are taken care of, the family group chat was going off on both sides with preparation.

It does feel kind of ominous. You know I'm currently sitting at my desk looking out the window, there's traffic going by, in some ways it's like a regular day but in other ways you do have that eerie feeling of everyone cooped up at home. It's a tense time for everyone.

Seeing the community organising has been really reassuring as well. For Our disabled and chronically ill community - we were already organising to see people supported where they don't have resources or services. So that community is very resilient and has been organising for a long time and it's good to see those learnings shared.

I guess from my end, it shows how resilient and collaborative and supportive our community is. It would be great if we go through the pandemic and come out the other side with that organisation respected by the wider nation. Like people see, now I can see how strongly this disabled community has had to organise, let's keep that - accessible buildings and meetings and not forget about it.

My hope is that people will take it as an opportunity to learn about disability rights and see decisions they've been making have been excluding our community.

Heather Middleton.

Auckland pensioner, aged 71, who usually volunteers at an op-shop and regularly attends a garden group.

I haven't been out of the house since Monday. The last two days went quite quickly but can't seeing the next four weeks going fast! I made a cake this morning to pass the time, and my daughter is allowed to come around so she'll do that and we'll go for a walk in the park. I think I'll make a fruit loaf too - you can cut it in half and put one side in the freezer.

My biggest worry is that I was supposed to have my hospital appointment on Monday and that got cancelled, which is not good. They just rang me up at 10.30 to say "don't come in", because my condition isn't life-threatening. And they said the specialist would ring but they haven't, so I'm in a bit of limbo. Fingers crossed I get through okay. I'm doing better as I'm being very careful about my diet.

 Heather Middleton, 71, has turned to baking and knitting while in isolation. Photo /Supplied
Heather Middleton, 71, has turned to baking and knitting while in isolation. Photo /Supplied

I make baby hats for charity - I knit them. It's for an organisation called Make Live Give - Meghan Markle even had one for her baby and liked it so she got another one. You use different patterns and colours, and have three of those to do so that will keep me busy.

I've been trying not to put on the TV until later in the afternoon. It's all about the virus at the moment, anyway. And it's not good for you to watch that all the time.

I'm just trying to take it one day at a time. I miss my friends and it's a bit hard with texting at the moment - the lines are overloaded - but I can ring them on the landline. It's a bit hard being cooped up - I'll miss just being about to hop in my car and take myself off somewhere, anywhere I like.

You know my worst fear? My hair! I usually get it cut every five weeks. It's a pixie cut. Who knows what it will look like after this! Who cares. No one to see me anyway, I'm just going to wear old jeans and a jumper and enjoy it.

Nikki Fowler-Oates.

Tauranga mum of five, including Madeleine, 8, who has a compromised immune system and needs significant disability support.

By Saturday, we'd already started talking about putting ourselves in hibernation. But we were hoping for another week to get sorted and then Jacinda made the lockdown announcement.

It was actually a relief because instead of feeling like "how long are we going to be in isolation while the rest of the country spreads it around?" it was like "we're all in it together". Now it's like "if we all do it, we can get through".

Maddie Oates-Fowler and her brother Felix both have disability support workers, who the family is unlikely to keep up during the lockdown, to ensure those more in need get help. Photo / Supplied
Maddie Oates-Fowler and her brother Felix both have disability support workers, who the family is unlikely to keep up during the lockdown, to ensure those more in need get help. Photo / Supplied

I've had a mixed bag of emotions. By the time of the announcement I'd already had a couple of days of panic attacks. I think I had my panic a bit earlier than others, but I knew what to do and I went to see the doctor.

For me, seeing the panic buying and people rushing to supermarkets - I think that's just people going "this is scary and we don't know how to deal with it". But some people, like me, have the resources because they've dealt with trauma before. But I think other people are just getting their heads around it.

One thing that's concerned me is the discussion of mental health. There's a lot of "pull your socks up and get on with it". Or "get some sunshine". But even for people who have had hardship and know how to get help, that support isn't always there.

Maddie loves any kind of music. She's non-verbal, but manages to communicate all the same. Photo / Supplied
Maddie loves any kind of music. She's non-verbal, but manages to communicate all the same. Photo / Supplied

You can be blindsided really easily. People are saying "where's the kindness, where's the empathy" and I think that's just people not knowing what they're feeling. And I get that because you're trying to distract yourself, so you'll look at hand soap and count toilet rolls. But you shouldn't be afraid to tell others how you're feeling. It will probably be a relief for them to hear someone else say, "I'm scared".

It doesn't have to be sunshine and rainbows. Even if you have a roof over your head, and a job, there'll still be feelings of loss about plans cancelled, and you'll be missing people.

It's change and big feelings are attached to that even if it's not the end of the world. That's okay.

For us now, we still have two home care workers coming but I think we will end up stopping that because now my partner will be home. And there's other people who don't have anyone at all, so really need their support workers, and we want to minimise the risk for everyone.

So we will have to make the call today to say we're doing it on our own. And please God let it be a short period of time. Please everyone, follow the rules.

Donald Bell, 73.

Staying at Domain House in Auckland while undergoing treatment for oesophageal cancer. His wife and dogs are at home in Whangarei.

Well. I'm above ground so that's a start! It's very quiet here now, there's very few people around so I'm getting a lot of reading done.

I still go to the hospital each day. There's a lot more precautions in place now. They're not allowing caregiver companions in, patients only. There's a form to say you haven't been sick since the last time. And tapes on the ground to show you how to space away from people.

Donald Bell, 73, is being treated for oesophageal cancer in Auckland. His immunity is lowered by the chemo. Photo / Supplied
Donald Bell, 73, is being treated for oesophageal cancer in Auckland. His immunity is lowered by the chemo. Photo / Supplied

To me, we've got to get ahead of the wave so cutting down contact makes a lot of sense. I haven't see too many people since the lockdown was announced but I've had a lot of phone calls from people. The health service here is brilliant.

I'm hoping to go home to Whangarei this weekend and get some more food supplies. I'll be self-isolated in my car. I'm on the liquid food, through a plug, and the pharmacy up there will have a new supply. I'll be able to see my wife and my dogs, I'm missing them.

I still feel a bit sick most of the time and the radiotherapy gives me a cough. But the weather is great and I've got the domain to walk around. And do you know, since the article was published, two people called the lodge to give me support. One who had the same condition and he's recovered from his. And then somebody dropped off a ginger loaf cake. She wrote me a note to say parents both stayed at the lodge and had cancer. It was signed "From Pam", but I don't know a Pam, and I realised it was a stranger.

It was lovely. I think people are intrinsically good. That's why we'll get through.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website