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Lockdown update: returning to routines

After eight weeks of stricter levels (4 and then 3) of lockdown, things seem to be getting better.

We are currently in level 2 and have been since Thursday. It is great to see people returning to the streets and generally going about their businesses.

Today we went to our favourite cafe in the morning. As always, the baristas made great coffee. After that, we went to our favourite place in the neighbourhood and grabbed bread from our favourite bakery. In the afternoon I drove past a restaurant that’s usually crowded but was ghosted for the past many weeks. I felt happy to see people enjoying drinks and food, and generally having a good time. It looks like it returned to being the happening place that it used to be!

Today is Sunday and schools are starting from tomorrow. Although it won’t be the same as before, it looks like we are getting back to some semblance of routines after about two months. Fingers crossed, it stays put!

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Lockdown update: down to level 2 from Thursday

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today New Zealand would move from alert level 3 to level 2 at 11.59pm on the night of Wednesday 13 May; that’s seven weeks after we entered the strictest lockdown.

On Thursday, 14 May, cafes, restaurants, libraries, gyms, malls, cinemas, tourism operators, and sports clubs can reopen.


On Monday, 18 May, kids will be able to return to school.


On Thursday, 21 May, bars will be able to open.

I have no interest in bars, malls or cinemas. But I am looking forward to schools, cafes and libraries reopening soon.

It is great to be able to stick to the ease down schedule!

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Lockdown update: down to level 3

New Zealand eased into a less severe Level 3 of lockdown today (from 00:00 on April 28th), after about five-and-half weeks of strict lockdown in Level 4 that started from 11:59 pm on March 25th.

We are going to stay in Level 3 for two weeks until May 11th. On May 11th, the cabinet will announce the nation’s next step in the fight against Covid-19. In a great piece of news, the new Covid-19 cases over the past eight days remained in single digits. I am also delighted to see the overall number of infected New Zealanders in the sub-1500 range so far since this outbreak. Over 80% of those people have recovered.

Level 3 feels different from Level 4 in a few ways: there are more people and cars on roads, there is some business activity like takeaway coffees and fast food. Some schools and childcare centres are open.

It is great to see some people and activity compared to how ghosted the streets were for the past five weeks. But I am not too excited as yet. I am not yet comfortable sending the son to the school; neither the school is welcoming all children yet.


I am looking forward to seeing how the curve fares in the next two weeks. I will celebrate more once we go further down to Level 2.

For now, though, I am treating this as Level 4 with one perk: I could now get my daily coffee fix from my regular coffee takeaway outlet. I got one today and boy it tasted great! I have no intention to contribute to traffic gridlocks at McDonalds around the city. I missed my usual eatouts and cafes but no so much to flock on the first day of less severe lockdown. I missed my coffee most and am glad to have it again.

Overall I am impressed with the progress this country has made with keeping the Covid-19 under control. In the coming weeks, I look forward to more easing, schools fully opening, and my other favourite coffee shop opening, all while maintaining physical distancing and other health and safety procedures, of course! It looks like we are making substantial progress in this country.

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Lockdown updates

Yesterday at 4 pm Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced that New Zealand would go one level down to level 3 from 11:59 pm on 28th April. We would further go down to level 2 from 11th May if the downtrend continues. It is so much relieving!

I am impressed with how this country managed the outbreak in the world where many other first and third world countries have had appalling results. I never took it granted, and I have always been grateful to be living in this country, but more so in the present testing times. I couldn’t have lived in a better place during this pandemic and I am very grateful for that!

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading and pondering a lot about the social and economic impacts of Covid -19, especially on thousands of small and local businesses. For about two years now, as a family, we have been thinking more and more about where the dollars we spend would be going. We have been spending locally as much as we can. I look forward to doing more of the same in the coming years. There has never been a better time to spend locally. I want as much of my money to go to the people and businesses in my community, and I will prioritize local spending for my dollars.

I had a feeling that the bailout money and financial packages governments all over the world are announcing is not free. But I did not quite know the answer until I read this post titled Who Pays For This?

You don’t pay it off. You grow your way out of it. This isn’t intuitive because it doesn’t apply to people. When a person takes out a mortgage or a car loan, there’s a repayment date. But that’s only because people have finite careers and lifespans, so there’s an “end date” where all debts have to be repaid.

Countries (and to some extent companies) are different. They have indefinite lives. So they can remain indebted indefinitely, even with rising debt.

As long as nominal GDP growth is higher than the annual budget deficit, debt to GDP goes down, and spending more than you take in leaves you with a lower debt burden.

This is so simple, but it’s easily overlooked because it doesn’t apply to people.

What matters for countries isn’t the amount of debt they hold. It’s how burdensome that debt is to maintain over time.

Here is another enlightening post I read lately on the Financial Times: Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract

And the continued timeline…
  • 4 pm, 20-Apr-2020

    PM announced that NZ will go to lockdown alert level 3 from 11:59 pm on 27th April (midnight of ANZAC Day)

  • 00:00 am, 28-Apr-2020

    NZ goes down to lockdown alert level 3.

  • 4 pm 11-May-2020

    Cabinet will decide when will we go further down to lockdown alert level 2.

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Lockdown updates

Yesterday marked two weeks since we are locked down.

Today as we head into the Easter weekend I am excited about a few pieces of promising COVID-19 news:

  • Lowest number (29) of COVID-19 cases since March 21.
  • Tighter border controls, and mandatory quarantine for new arrivals since this midnight.

And in a piece of more exciting news…

  • Lockdown decision will be reviewed on April 20.

I’m hoping lockdown will be eased to Level 3 and some level of routines will resume from April 28.

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Two opinions on the PM

Today I read two posts about the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden and her government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

A praise:

Three reasons why Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response has been a masterclass in crisis leadership

and a critic:

Should lockdown end early?

I agree with both the opinions.

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Pandemic thoughts

It’s been two full weeks since I started worrying about Covid-19 pandemic. And we have three weeks of lockdown ahead. Like many of my generation, I haven’t seen anything like this before. Hopefully this is once-in-a-lifetime event and so I wanted to journal my thoughts in this post. That way, years later I don’t have to think hard to share the pandemic stories with my grandchildren.

The pandemic

By now it is needless to say we are experiencing unprecedented times around the world with this COVID-19 pandemic spreading fast in many countries.

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 4. Like in many countries, we are locked down and mostly restricted to our homes. We have at least another three weeks of lockdown ahead.

I think the prime minister Jacinda Arden, her cabinet and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield are showing great leadership. I can’t think of any safer place to be in the current state of things. I hope New Zealand maintains its low profile with the number of COVID cases. Like many of my country people, I can’t wait for this lockdown to be lifted.

I hope our collective efforts will be fruitful, and we get rid of the pandemic in the coming few weeks in this country and many countries around the world.

The impact

I thrive on routines, and this lockdown upended my routines. Although I work from home and I love it, I have a few, small pockets of time during the day I go out briefly to grab a coffee and run some errands. I am bummed to be restricted to home all the time. In the last week, I went out only once to the supermarket to get weekly groceries.

I had a great line up of work and personal travel coming up this year: a trip to Rarotonga, a trip to Asia, a trip to Europe and a trip to the States. All that travel is now cancelled. I have no hope I will be able to board a flight anytime soon.

In the larger scheme of things though, I feel fortunate to be where I am.

Coping up

Routines

I am sticking to my routines as much as possible. I am meditating every day and exercising three times a week. I am yet to miss a day of meditation or a week of workouts this year.

I am eating (snacking) a bit more than usual. At this stage, I am missing my daily coffee buying routine and the weekend coffee dates with my wife. I decided to live with this temporary inconvenience.

Work

Not much has changed with my work thankfully. I am lucky to have work and the work I love. And do that work from home all the time and especially now. 

Gratitude

I upped my gratitude practice in the past two weeks. I was disturbed by this outbreak initially. To cope up, it helped a lot to reflect and count my blessings. The current crisis became bearable when I started counting the good things in my life. 

I have my job, and my wife has hers. We have a few months of savings. As a happy coincidence, between late last year and early this year, we liquidated a family property before the impending economic disaster and holding some extra cushion of cash that we hope we don’t have to tap into.

Although this reflection is in the business context, I believe it applies to personal finances too:

My wife sat and cleared a significant English test just the week before the lockdown was imposed. She had been working hard at it for the prior four weeks since mid-February. It was great to be able to conclude it just in time before this virus mayhem. She can now continue her studies online at the comfort of the home, unaffected by this pandemic. It would have been terrible if her effort was hindered due to this outbreak.

All my immediate and extended family, and the team members at work are safe around the world.

Reading

I have been reading a lot more news on NZ Herald, and Stuff for mainstream news, Kiwiblog for some opinions, and Eenadu for Indian news. 

I am following the NZ Ministry of Health website, the NZ government’s COVID-19 website and a lot more local and world COVID updates and news on Twitter.

I found great solace in reading the Collaborative Fund blog. Morgan Housel is terrific and I have been reading his blog for a long time now. But the last month’s posts on his blog have been particularly helpful in this crisis. I highly recommend you read the March 2020 posts from his archive here.

This is another great post that Morgan shared that I recommend everyone to read: Living well through crisis.

I also noticed a surge in the blog posts and news items about remote work and workouts. I am reading them as well. 

The timeline

This timeline would be helpful to look back a few years later.

  • 23-March-2020

    We did not send our son to school in the fears of potential case in our neighbourhood. That case turned out be negative luckily!

    Went to Indian grocery store and stocked up some food.

  • 24-March-2020

    Schools closed.

  • 8:30 am, 25-March-2020

    Bought the last coffee from BP Wildbean Cafe before the lockdown starts.

  • 11:59pm, 25-March-2020

    New Zealand moves to alert level four, and the entire nation goes into self-isolation.

  • 30-March-2020

    Grocery store trip to replenish food

  • 04-Apr-2020

    Two weeks since this all started affecting me.

    Continued here.

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Journal

How not to text your customers before the lockdown

And so are your customers!

Bummed to receive this patronising text from my LPG provider just before the lockdown.

I don’t even need a gas bottle anytime soon!

Surely, they can send an empathetic copy, to the customers who actually have upcoming orders?