This week marks the one year anniversary of New Zealand’s nationwide Level 4 lockdown and it is incredible how quickly the past 12 months have passed and how much we have changed. I can remember vividly the thoughts of impending doom as the whole country, apart from those engaged in essential services retreated into our homes and dealt as best we could with an entirely new phenomenon. Back then I got all of the negative thoughts out of the way first – that there may be acute shortages of food and resources, that lawlessness could prevail and that thousands of Kiwis would perhaps lose their lives to Covid-19.

As we all know none of that happened and instead we faced occasional community outbreaks that resulted in shorter, regional lockdowns, and our economy took a massive hit that will take many years to correct. Sectors of the economy have taken catastrophic hits and tens of thousands of New Zealanders have either lost their businesses or their jobs. We can talk about the team of 5 million but some of us have taken huge hits for the team.

Vaccinations have begun for those at the frontline of quarantine facilities, ports and airports, and those in the medical profession. Over the course of the year New Zealanders will have access to vaccines, if they choose to. We are talking about, though not yet committed to a travel bubble with Australia and while there is most definitely hope on the horizon, we still have far to go.

But it is important to reflect on where we have been over the past 12 months and to pay homage to those who have worked so hard to keep us safe. I’m thinking of the medical professionals who work obscene hours as it is and have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and wellbeing of others. I’m thinking of the scientists who have grappled with an insidious disease and asserted protocols to stem its advance or developed vaccinations to give us a fighting chance to eradicate it and return to some level of pre-Covid reality.

One could argue that we are already returning to a semblance of that normality, picking up the pieces and doing the best that we can, while wary of more community outbreaks that will set us back. All in all, I still thank all the stars that I am here in New Zealand while the pandemic still rages in other countries overseas. I have family in the UK who have been in lockdown for months and have been worn down by it. They are not sure when that will change and official directives are contradictory and confusing. Sometimes when I speak with them I feel guilty for the things we can do here that they can’t even imagine.

Without a doubt, New Zealand, like all countries across the globe, has changed. It’s been a very mixed bag of the horrendous and the surprisingly up-lifting. Who knows what we may report on on the second year anniversary of the very lockdown? I’m going to go into the next 12 months with a far greater sense of optimism than I did at the beginning of the last 12 and that’s a pretty good place to be.