Tuesday, 22 September 2020

The Return to London After Spending Lockdown in New Zealand

Whenever possible I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary stress in my life.  Sometimes that involves flying to the other side of the planet during a global pandemic.

This can be considered as part two of my "What I did during the Coronavirus Pandemic" post - a series motivated by the old "What I did during the school holidays" essay theme from childhood.

In mid-July I made the decision to book my flights back to London.  By this point the infection rate in the UK looked like it was going down, and my old accommodation was less at risk, but a key motivator for moving back was to ensure that my tax situation would not become complicated due to the country of residence situation.

When I went online to book my travel I was thinking about the risk of catching the virus en route, so I aimed to minimise my travel time and transit stops.  I wanted to catch up with friends in Christchurch, so had that as my departure point.  Australia - particularly Melbourne - was experience an increase in cases of the virus, so I decided to avoid any transit stop there.  Hong Kong was still not looking great due to political unrest, so I ruled out having any stop there.  Singapore looked like a safe option, and had been okay when I had travelled from London to Christchurch a few months earlier.

A few weeks later I came to realise that I had made a slight boo-boo when booking my flights.  Although New Zealand was on the UK's list of countries that it was okay to travel from without having to go into self-isolation when arriving back, Singapore was not on the list.  By including a transit stop in Singapore airport in my return flights to get me back to London I had destined myself to 14 days of being stuck in the flat.

Part of my pre-flight entertainment in Christchurch was to try out setting up a delivery of groceries to my UK address so that I would have enough sustenance during my second round of self-isolation.  As the supply / demand balance of online grocery orders had gone into a sensible level, I was able to schedule a delivery for a few hours after my return.

Even with the benefit of hindsight I don't regret my decision to travel via Singapore.  Realistically, given the limited range of countries within the UK's "travel corridor", if I had set up a travel route only involving those countries I believe that I would have been more at risk of becoming infected.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

What I did during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The move to New Zealand

On March 23rd I decided that there was too much uncertainty around how long London would be in lockdown, so I booked myself a flight to New Zealand to stay with family.

A few days later I was in Balclutha in time to hear the town's civil defence siren sound half an hour before the start of New Zealand's level four lockdown.

Due to the remote possibility of being a carrier of the virus, I had to self-isolate for two weeks from the day that I arrived.  This meant that I could not go to the supermarket (the only retail business still open).  I was still permitted to go outside and walk around, keeping my distance from anyone else who happened to be out and about at the same time.

Work

At the time that I left London my team had already started to work remotely, so I was able to continue to contribute to the software development effort from my laptop - just in a different timezone.

Online only job interviews

Participating in the job interview process is strange enough when meeting face to face in a meeting room in the office, but we had to adapt to try to achieve the same level of confidence with a candidate being met exclusively online.  The challenge that we didn't really solve was finding a suitable mechanism for having the applicant draw an architecture diagram for a hypothetical new system.

Staying connected

For my circle of friends back in London I found myself making new connections on Facebook with people who I would semi-regularly meet up with in the local pub.

My pub quiz team WhatsApp group also kept me informed of changes in my London neighbourhood, though I eventually found myself sending them pics and videos that I had received - such as how a local pub was temporarily converting itself into a delicatessen.

Post lockdown socialising

By the 21st of May New Zealand had gradually moved to a lower level of Covid-19 restrictions.  More shops could open, and caf├ęs, restaurants and bars could operate with social distancing restrictions for customers, known as the three S's: seated, separated, and with a single server.

I didn't expect many businesses would open under the restrictions, as their overheads could be higher than before and the likely turnover could be expected to be much lower.

On one of my daily walks I came to realise that the pub closest to my side of the town was opening, so I decided to try it out for some food, beverages, and people watching - I hadn't really spoken to anyone beyond my immediate family for well over a month by that stage.