Christchurch CBD during COVID-19

Covid19 stay at home sign

The current situation seems so surreal. I’m still taking time to adjust to all these changes that have come upon us. Covid-19 has arrived and we all can take it down.

Feeling safe in Aotearoa

I remember very well hearing about the new COVID-19 virus last December. The truth is, I never imagined the devastating worldwide effect it could have.

There is no place too remote or too safe that it could be out of this new Corona virus reaching. We could not be the exception, especially considering that New Zealand is a highly tourist country. Every year we are visited by millions of tourists.

The summer passed slowly during January. Everything seemed to be normal despite the news in Europe related to the corona virus. We were safe, far and safe on this beautiful island at the bottom of the world.

The clock said 5am, the alarm went off and my cat would not leave me alone asking for breakfast. I go to work as usual and everything seemed normal. We felt safe but at the same time worried. Our work depends on tourists, and the chance of having an infected person in our work was imminent.

Covid-19 has arrived

The least expected day, which no one predicted would happen, arrived. On 25 March, 50 new cases were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 205. A national state of emergency was declared by Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare at 12:21 pm. The country entered alert level 4 at 11:59 pm on the same day. This state of emergency will last for 4 weeks but may be extended.

The closing of the airports, the lack of tourists and the measures decreed by the government, ended up stopping most of the jobs and activities in the country and especially in my city. Most of the people went home under the government subsidy for lost wages, to be able to overcome this situation. All in their houses, shops, cafes and closed public spaces, ended up turning the streets and the city center into a ghost town.

The city center of Christchurch is not famous for being a vibrant point full of people, much less a place that never sleeps, as would be the case of the city of Valparaiso in Chile, but in recent years, after the earthquake, the city center began to recover the life that was years ago.

Be safe, be kind

Returning to the city center 48 hours before entering lock down, it feel like my first time in Christchurch. I remember the emptiness of the CBD, lots of restaurants and cafe closed and rebuilding happening everywhere. Walking around the city was attractive and interesting to me at that time. I loved going to photograph ruined places and contrasts of new buildings changing the downtown urban landscape.

This time the visual impact was different. Walking through empty streets in a totally new and rebuilt CBD after the earthquake was a bit sad. I walked approximately 5km to capture that feeling of emptiness and forced abandonment caused by this new COVID-19 virus. Our lifestyles have changed forever. There are many lessons to take from this situation and I really hope we could keep all the good ones. This has not finished yet. Be safe, be kind, stay strong. Kia kaha.

PS: These photos were published on Re: