‘You feel a little bit less cautious’ – families adjusting to covid rules

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Playgrounds buzzing on the first day of the New Zealand's school holidays in the covid orange alert setting
Playgrounds buzzing on the first day of the New Zealand's school holidays in the covid orange alert setting. Image: RNZ/123rf

By Soumya Bhamidipati, RNZ News journalist

The orange light pandemic setting in Aotearoa New Zealand has brought a sense of relief for parents, as the eased restrictions mean one less thing to juggle — but some covid-related worries are still lurking.

Lower Hutt’s biggest playground was buzzing on the first day of the school holidays, which have just begun under the covid orange traffic light setting.

While it seems little has changed in parents’ day-to-day lives, one mother said there was definitely a small sense of relief.

“You feel a little bit less cautious, I guess if the government’s making things a bit relaxed it eases the anxiety that you might feel around everyone mixing together.”

Another mum, Rachel, agreed — her son was on immunosuppressants, which meant his lungs could be affected if he caught covid.

Despite this, 10-year-old Magnus was confident about the eased restrictions.

“Most people, when they get the covid after they have vaccines, they get only a little cold or something like that and I have already had my second jab, I had it last year.”

Glad over masks
Meanwhile, his younger sister, 8-year-old Lilith, said she was glad she wouldn’t have to wear a mask at school next term.

“I have had a lot of big feelings when I went to school and I think it’ll really help me that everyone can speak clearly to me. It makes my life a lot easier.”

For Rachel, the orange setting reflected her attempts to keep a balanced perspective.

“We take our immuno-suppressants and those are good for us to protect our body, but then we also play in the dirt, we play with our friends, we get out there and we live our lives,” she said.

“It really is a day-to-day balance of keeping all the parts of ourselves healthy, and that’s our heart and our mind as well.”

Across the park, 6-year-old Sophia and her dad Karl both knew children who’d had the virus.

They said while it was great the rules had relaxed, it was important to continue using good judgment.

Omicron affecting youngsters
“My school friend caught covid,” Sophia said.

“With delta it wasn’t affecting youngsters, but omicron seems to be affecting the youngsters now,” Karl added.

“Unfortunately we don’t know what’s going to happen now and if five and six-year-olds, and four-year-olds can now get it, I’m not going to drop my guard.”

So, what will school holidays in the orange setting look like?

Becka was keen on anything to get her kids outdoors — they were particularly looking forward to the pools.

“Go to Maidstone Park, get in the fresh air,” she said.

“Swimming is something we haven’t done for a while because you had to book in times apparently, through the (red) setting so we’re going to try and do that.”

Parents remaining cautious, but optimistic, in this new stage of New Zealand’s pandemic response.

13 deaths – 14 in ICU
The Ministry of Health today reported 11,217 covid-19 community cases and 13 deaths.

The ministry put out the numbers later in the day than usual due to an IT network issue. There are 547 people in hospital and 14 in ICU.

It says the seven-day rolling average of cases today is 7834 — last Wednesday it was 9288; the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 12.

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

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