The 11th of November, 1918, was a day of celebration for my Grandfather for two reasons. Germany had formally surrendered, ending World War I – and it was his 21st birthday. In addition Granddad, Grandma and their 3 children (my mother and her brothers) were looking forward to their first Christmas together in a world free from strife. It wasn’t to be.  New Zealand’s worst disease outbreak, the lethal influenza pandemic, had struck and by December about half as many people had fallen to influenza, as had fallen in the whole of the First World War. That was around 8.5% of the population.

My family survived untouched because Granddad was a “rabbiter”. He worked for the pest destruction board as a rabbit hunter, and decided the best thing to do was move himself and the family out to live away from their town house, to live alone by the river for two months. They survived in a tent, living on his skills to shoot for rabbit meat and, as he put it, “free forage” the local farmers veggie plots at night. While a number of neighbours died in the pandemic, his decision to self-isolate undoubtedly saved their lives.

100 years later, with Coronavirus sweeping the globe, we need to make the same choice. Although here in New Zealand we have had no deaths to date, and so to keep us ahead of the curve, we will be entering a 30 day, country wide, lockdown in a few hours.  From this point on, unless an essential service worker, we must self-isolate at home. One person from each group may leave to do necessary shopping, and we may leave the house to exercise, once daily, as long as we are not within 2m of anyone else that is not living within our “bubble”. The use of cars for other than essential use is banned. Only indispensable businesses providing the necessities of life, like supermarkets and pharmacies, can stay open. Schools are closed as are all food outlets, retail services and social hubs.

Many people are unhappy about these restrictions – however I believe it is important to not look at being isolated at home as an inconvenience to protect your neighbour, but as a measure that protects YOU and your family. The point of self-isolation at home is to create that “bubble” of distance around you from others. If you, and your “bubble” mates are well when you start, you are likely to be well when the isolation period finishes. Why? Because the virus can only be spread by having contact with those who have the virus. It’s a no brainer – avoid others like the plague.

Be COVID-19 smart by taking some simple precautions

 Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Maintain at least 2 metres distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. If too close you can breathe in droplets that may contain the virus.

Avoid touching your face as contaminated hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth, if it has been picked up from infected surfaces.

Follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.