I was recently asked to take part in a project run by Upper Hutt Library’s Heritage Team, looking at the experiences of Upper Hutt residents during Cofid-19.
In early 2020 New Zealand was increasingly affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic, with the country’s first confirmed case diagnosed on 28 February. Things moved at a dizzying pace in March, with 14 days’ self-isolation made mandatory for arrivals from overseas from 14 March, the country’s borders closed to all but citizens and permanent residents on 19 March, and a strict lockdown (level 4 of a four-level system) imposed from 26 March. This meant that New Zealanders (other than essential workers) found themselves locked down at home, limited to contact with the ‘bubble’ of their household, and only permitted out to access essential goods and services, or for exercise in their local area. This lockdown was eased – slightly – from 28 April, with takeaway food and other items allowed to be delivered or contactlessly picked up, and people able to travel in their regions for exercise or recreation. From 14 May the restrictions were loosened yet again as the country began to move into level 2 of the alert system.
The Upper Hutt City Library heritage team decided to document this historically momentous (and unprecedented in our lifetime) situation by recording interviews with Upper Hutt residents about their experiences of lockdown, living in a ‘bubble’, and the Covid-19 crisis generally, using remote video-enabled technologies such as Zoom or Skype. We have also been collecting photos documenting how Covid-19 and lockdown have affected the Upper Hutt community – including signage and closed businesses, as well as community initiatives such as displaying teddy bears or Easter decorations in windows, putting Anzac Day decorations on houses and fences, and commemorating Anzac Day by standing at mailboxes at 6am.