April 30, 2020 Mowava Liburd

THE PANDEMIC PERSPECTIVE FROM NEW ZEALAND, COOK ISLANDS & NEVIS

BY MOWAVA LIBURD, SAMUEL GILLING & TOKOA AHIAO

The School of COVID-19 – Mowava Liburd (Nevis) 

COVID-19 pandemic experience is teaching us lessons that cannot be taught in any course at university. If we live to graduate from The Coronavirus College of Humanity, we should be a kinder and better people. Corona as affectionately called in Nevis, have forced us to learn to be more patient and observant of things around us.

Who would have thought that the day would have come when you could not leave your house without a mask? When leaving the house, check your bags for you mask or police will stop you or you will not able to enter stores or banking institutions and do not forget your hand sanitizer. Who would have thought social distancing would have now become the new thing, a time when persons area afraid to speak to their neighbours from across the fence, a time when children are asking why they cannot play with their friends or why they cannot visit their grandparents. Wait that is if you are allowed to leave the house. St. Kitts and Nevis was place on a State of Emergency on March 28, 2020 for 14 days in the first instance, then extended to 21 days, then it was extended to 6 months, with only essential workers allowed to leave their homes. Who would have thought that persons will be working from home and that children would have to learn from home and not have any face to face schooling for the remainder of the school year? Oh, how I never!!

Subsequently, the State of Emergency is a first for many like myself. This brought fear for most persons of the nation. On partial lockdown day, which is a night curfew, persons are allowed to go out to shop for the essentials, but there were some rules and guidelines to follow. Persons were only to allowed to leave their homes if they were in the zone designated for a particular day, to enter a store you must show you have a shopping list and it was advised that only one person per family should leave the house to shop. Thereafter, there was a relaxation of the rules and guidelines which allowed persons to go out and shop on partial lockdown days, but lines were extremely long. Persons, were aggravated for having to wait in long lines in the hot sun and then only to go inside the stores to shop to see nothing much were on the shelves because persons panic shopped and bought most of the supplies or from the outrageous price increase of food and essential supplies. Unfortunately, the government either cannot or are not trying hard enough to do anything with regards to price gouging. Nonetheless, the Nevis Government, has offered a number of incentives for persons who have lost their jobs and for those experiencing reduce hours and pay.

More importantly, the island of Nevis is now trying to invest in there food security. Nevis is an island of blue waters, warm white sand and tropical ever green rainforest, and a place where visitors come to unwind. With the dreaded Corona on the loose Nevis has turned to other means of providing revenue for the country, such as agriculture. Additionally, the government has postponed our yearly summer festival, Culturama, in order to use the funds to help the citizens of Nevis. Oh you thing called Corona.

However, COVID-19 has brought the nation closer together, many businesses on Nevis have provided care packages of mask and hand sanitizers for households and even hot meals and loaves of breads for people of this little island. Just when we thought humanity was going out the door Corona did her part and brought it back.

Lockdown Level 4 – Samuel Gilling (New Zealand)

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a tragedy that has raised many challenges for people and businesses around the globe. However, it has also been a moment in history, which is a testament to human resilience, ingenuity, and creativity. It is truly amazing to read all of the stories around the world of people banding together, of philanthropic efforts aiding millions, and even of the businesses that are putting their clients first in these tough times.

In New Zealand, we have seen the country go into complete lockdown for over a month which has brought about a change in the way people work and live. Here at Southpac Group we have done all that we can to ensure a seamless experience and peace of mind for all of our valued clients. Thankfully, with the support of our amazing team we have been able to continue business almost as usual in most cases. Modern technology has been a blessing in this case as we have been able work from home with most of the same processes and procedures in place. There have certainly been some issues in regards to certain physical processes that we and our clients would ordinarily undertake such as notarising documents to remain compliant or fulfil transaction requirements. However, with the flexibility we have available to us and careful planning, we have been able to overcome these matters and best serve those who need us.

I can happily say that the current pandemic has not held us back and we are here and available to support our clients through this difficult time as and when required.

COVID Free Cook Islands – Tokoa Ahiao (Cook Islands)

“These are unprecedented times” is the catch phrase being used to describe the effect and impact of COVID19 globally. And this is certainly true of our Cook Islands experience.

The usual hustle and bustle of island life came to an abrupt halt when our borders closed in line with New Zealand’s border closure. Like New Zealand, we have been in “lockdown” for about 5 weeks, with schools closed and significant restrictions placed on shopping centres, banks and government departments. “Social-distancing” and the cleaning of one’s hands before entering any establishment has become the norm.

Tourism, which accounts for upwards of 80 percent of Cook Islands GDP, has severely impacted the lives of the majority of locals who, in one way or another rely on the travel dollar to survive. From the hotels who employ hundreds of locals (as well as a large Fijian and Philippino workforce); to the restaurants, bars, rental car and charter fishing boat companies; to the growers who supply fresh produce and fish for our tourists; to the market and roadside vendors who provide island delicacies – COVID has forced us to re-think and evaluate the need to diversify, rather than rely on tourism to keep our economy ticking.

There have been positives to come out of the international border shut down. We have been shown strong leadership from our health authority and government (who incidentally closed our inter-island borders to prevent the spread of COVID to our outer islands). District (village) health clinics have been set up to: identify people in the village who need assistance, to organise health checks and food deliveries to families, to ensure our elderly are being looked after. This initiative has brought close communities, even closer together.

We are lucky to be able to say the Cook Islands are, at this point in time, COVID19 free. But it is still early days. We are awaiting with a high degree of anxiety, the return of Cook Islanders from New Zealand. The opening of our borders, to even our own returning people, opens the risk that COVID will take a hold here. And with that, with our large elderly population, COVID could devastate our mamas and papas. Fingers crossed we can avoid that.

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