The only thing that is certain in life is change. Nothing in this life stays the same forever. At the moment, it feels as if nothing is staying the same, or is guaranteed, from one day to the next. We were having an amazing weekend away with Catholic families, sharing fellowship and life and laughter, and then, at 9pm that Saturday night, a further level 3 lockdown was announced. There seems to be a lot of people getting bothered by this — is it a means of control? Is it needed? I’m not sure there is a right answer, but I do think we have been lulled into a false sense of security in New Zealand, because we are not seeing the level of sickness and deaths that are happening in other countries.
If we had been like the UK and the US, with high levels of disease and death, we would all be screaming at the Government that they got it wrong, and should have locked us down sooner, and for longer.
Currently we have 26 official Covid-19 deaths, which is approximately 1 per cent of the total number of confirmed cases in New Zealand. Mostly, we have kept Covid away from the elderly/vulnerable, with the exception of some outbreaks in residential care. What we don’t see is that, in places overseas in similar- sized hospitals to where I work, they had up to 200 inpatients a day with Covid, and up to 40 ICU beds in use at any one time. That is overwhelming. If we got to that level, there can be no other routine care going on. If you have an accident and need an ICU bed, there isn’t one. If you discover a breast lump, there aren’t any elective operations going on. Any of the many things that people end up needing hospital care for — be it electively or urgently — just can’t be done, or at least not to the same level, with that sort of flooding of the system.
We are dealing with lots of uncertainty and lots of changes — regarding scheduling, regarding jigging, depending on alert levels and gathering numbers, missing out on activities (some of which are paid for, and there’s a tricky issue — consumers want refunds, but that is disastrous for businesses), and missing out on social events that are really important for some people. Loss of routine is very unsettling and destabilising for people in general. There has been talk of lockdown fatigue in New Zealand, but spare a thought for our fellow humans in other parts of the world, who have been locked down for months. This is a situation we want to avoid.
Going forward, no one can now predict when this pandemic will be over, and that means limited freedom of travel and movement across the globe, for the most part. Travel can be a luxury but, for many people, families are separated, people haven’t been able to attend to sick relatives and go to funerals. Australia used to be a 3-hour flight way, and a weekend trip for some. Now there are hardly any flights, and there is a 14-day quarantine if you come here, and the rules for us going there are changing, depending on our case numbers.
It’s the first line of the Serenity Prayer that we really need to grasp with both hands for 2021. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
This Covid/ lockdown situation is not within our control. Enjoy some of the upsides when they come, such as a break from the busyness of life, a break from rushing around in the car, a break from traffic, for example. Some of us will have more upsides than others. Be compassionate to yourself as we ride this unwelcome roller coaster.
1 Peter 5:6-7; “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him. because he cares for you.”
Helen Luxford is a physician, working part-time. She is a parishioner of St Michael’s, Remuera. Together with her husband Michael, they are raising their children in the Catholic Faith and reflecting on the challenges and joys that brings.