Our last stop in New Zealand was Auckland. We arrived back in Auckland in early August, planning to see more of the city and to prepare for our journey back to the US. Things did not go as planned.
Everything started out OK. We visited the Auckland Zoo, where we saw some critters that we weren’t able to see after COVID-19 canceled our plans to go to Australia. For me the highlight was watching a Tasmanian devil feed on a rabbit carcass. We saw emus and wallabies, and got a much better view of a rhino than we had in Tanzania. On the other hand, after seeing Galapagos tortoises and giraffes in the wild, seeing them in captivity was a bit anti-climactic.
On another day we made the short hike up Mt Eden, one of the 50 dormant volcanoes in and around Auckland. We were rewarded with amazing 360-degree views of the city.
We got haircuts, and Lauren got a pedicure – luxuries that might be hard to come by (at least safely) back home.
Then, on the evening of August 11, at about 8pm we were alerted on our phones there would be a surprise press conference at 9pm. The press conference would star the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health. We immediately knew that could mean only one thing: COVID-19 was back in the community in New Zealand.
Sure enough, the government announced that testing had detected new community transmission of COVID-19 in Auckland. After 100+ days without community transmission, this was a shock to the entire country. Auckland went into “level 3” lockdown the following noon . Businesses had to switch to contactless operation; restaurants were take-out only; and museums and other activities had to close. The rest of the country went into less-strict “level 2,” and police set up roadblocks to limit travel in and out of the city. Our touring had come to an end.
As I write this Auckland is still locked down. Due to aggressive management of the virus, New Zealand reopened quickly after the first lockdown. It was nearly inevitable that the virus – persistent as it is – would somehow get back in someday. No other government has handled it as well, and I’m fully confident that the kiwis will prevail again.