The government of New Zealand lifted most of the country’s strict lockdown measures today after almost two months. What did New Zealanders do? They went to stores, they got tattoos, they met up with friends (in groups of no more than ten), and they got haircuts. Lots of haircuts.
Restaurants, movie theaters, malls, retail stores, beauty salons, playgrounds, and gyms all opened up today, though the New Zealand government has encouraged people to keep following social distancing guidelines. And it was clearly quite a relief for people in New Zealand, where the sun has already set on Thursday.
New Zealand has become the envy of the world during the global coronavirus pandemic, successfully keeping its population of 5 million people healthy through good governance and competent planning. The country has seen just 1,497 infections and 21 deaths from the coronavirus—a credit to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her decision to lock down the entire nation before a single death and effectively implementing contact tracing to find and isolate potential carriers of covid-19.
In order to stay safe, New Zealand will likely need to keep its borders shut for some time, if only to keep out citizens from the hardest hit countries like the U.S., Russia, and the UK—all nations with wildly incompetent governments. As the Daily Beast explained earlier this week, Americans won’t be welcome in many countries anytime soon. But it’s encouraging to know that at least some people are able to go back to normal and will perpetuate the human species even if the rest of the world disintegrates into a pit of despair and disease. You’ve got to look on the bright side.
There were long line for haircuts in New Zealand everywhere today. Some people even called barbers about getting haircuts at midnight, according to Australia’s Nine News, when the lockdown officially lifted.
People went out with friends for coffee in Auckland.
And made sure to bring around their fluffy pals, like this dog outside a coffee shop in Auckland.
They went to the gym in Christchurch.
They walked the streets in Wellington.
They went to beauty salons like the Tonic Skin Body Spa in Auckland. Below we see owner Kim Buckley on the left and and therapist/manager Maree Wrathall on the right.
Kids went to the park to ride their scooters.
And people got other services that require up-close and personal attention. Below, tattoo artist Dean Sacred gave a tattoo to Ramin Fallowfield at Sacred Tattoo Studio in Kingsland.
They went cycling in Auckland.
The scooters were also placed back out on urban streets, something that was removed when the pandemic began.
New Zealanders went shopping in Christchurch, though there were plenty of signs to remind people they should remain two meters away from others.
The country is still encouraging lots of social distancing everywhere you look, including signs on public transportation informing people to keep plenty of space between themselves and other people.
Airports also have signs instructing people where not to sit, like in this photo from the Christchurch Airport.
There are also some signs in stores showing where people can stand, like in this sporting goods shop.
They went to pet shops, like this one in Christchurch, though there are limits on how many people can be in a store at one given time.
They also went to home improvement stores like Bunnings Warehouse, basically New Zealand’s equivalent of Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Malls were still pretty empty today, judging by reports on the ground and photos from Getty Images. But they were open and people could walk around as they pleased.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government also delivered a $50 billion budget ($30 billion US) to Parliament today, which included the largest spending package in the country’s history. Just because you escape mass death doesn’t mean you’re not going to be suffering economically like every other country in the world.
“Nothing about this time in our history is usual and so neither should our response be,” Ardern, pictured below, told New Zealand’s Parliament today, advocating for a huge injection of money into the country.
Did we mention haircuts? People got lots of haircuts.
And hair coloring.
Again, lots and lots of haircuts.
And beard trims.
So much hair being cut.
And so many lines for haircuts, with proper social distancing, of course.
I never thought I’d be jealous of people standing in a line, but here we are. I’m very jealous of people standing in a line—people with a very low risk of being infected with a deadly disease that’s ravaging the globe.
There are plenty of places in the U.S. that look like New Zealand right now, of course. Georgia, for example, has opened up despite being a hotbed of disease. The state has roughly 10 million people, twice the population of New Zealand, but 23 times more infections and 72 times more deaths. As of Thursday morning, Georgia had 35,427 cases and 1,517 deaths—significantly more than New Zealand’s 1,497 cases and 21 deaths.
These photos from New Zealand could be Georgia today. But there’s one big difference. And it’s invisible, until it’s not. A microscopic virus has a way of turning into mountains of body bags very quickly.
I’ll bet New Zealand is happy it didn’t become part of the United States back in the 19th century, something that was discussed as trade between the two countries grew strong. New Zealand will no doubt struggle to rebound, as some of its economy depends on international tourism, but the government is working to save as many jobs as possible. And the citizens of New Zealand should be commended for putting in two tough months of lockdown so that they can reap the rewards now.