Panic buying and generosity: A year since NZ entered covid lockdown

NZ lockdown anniversary montage
Empty streets across New Zealand (clockwise, from top left) in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, on 26 March 2020, the first full day of the covid-19 lockdown announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 23 March 2020. Image: RNZ

RNZ News

Today marks one year since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the call to put New Zealand into a covid-19 lockdown.

At the time, Aotearoa had 102 confirmed cases of covid-19 and the Ministry of Health said the virus was spreading in the community.

The borders were already shut.

The level 4 lockdown started at 11.59pm on 25 March 2020, two days after the prime minister’s announcement, and meant non-essential businesses and schools closed.

New Zealanders were urged to stay at home to save lives, and to leave home only for essential purposes such as grocery shopping.

Panic buying made headlines with long queues forming at supermarkets around the country just ahead of the lockdown.

Countdown pleaded with the public to only buy what they needed, but empty shelves and out-of-stock items, such as flour, were a common sight.

Felt like ‘the apocalypse’
Bella, who works in Auckland, had a glass of wine with her flatmates the night of the announcement, before jumping on a bus to Thames to spend lockdown with her family.

She said it felt like the apocalypse, but she found the first lockdown the easiest as she was with family and out of the city.

An empty Queen St in Auckland on lockdown 24 March 2020
An empty Queen St, Auckland, on 24 March 2020, the morning after the prime minister announced the country would be going into a level 4 lockdown. Image: Jordan Bond/RNZ

The successive lockdowns for Auckland were the real challenge as being stuck in the inner city took a toll on her mental health and that of her friends, she said.

For Auckland resident Fiona Cameron, the level 4 lockdown was manageable and she considered herself lucky.

Some of her work colleagues had to juggle many responsibilities at once during this time, including working, home-schooling and keeping the household running.

Six, who is from Auckland, believes the lockdown helped bring people together.

She lived in a Housing New Zealand complex where organisations delivered kai during the lockdown.

“One lady turned up in a Porsche with a whole load of frozen chickens. People were thinking about others,” she said.

She expected New Zealand to be in and out of lockdowns for the next year or so.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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