Fasten your seatbelts, Queenstown.
We’re in for a bumpy ride.
It’s now impossible to have a conversation with anyone that doesn’t include ‘coronavirus’ … a word I hadn’t even heard of until about three months ago.
This week the proverbial hit the fan REAL fast.
It feels like with every passing day – particularly since our first case was confirmed on Sunday afternooon – the justifiable and understandable concern is increasingly becoming outright panic.
Dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest, buy all the toilet paper/canned goods/hand sanitiser/rubbing alcohol and aloe vera to make your own hand sanitiser, but ‘no, I absolutely cannot spare any for anyone else’, manic panic.
And I get it.
I’d be an outright liar if I said I wasn’t feeling a bit anxious and my heart rate hasn’t kicked up a notch this week.
Because, in Queenstown, we don’t actually know what we’re in for … and the unknown’s always scarier, right?
The last few days, though, have given us a glimpse.
Within 24 hours of our first case being confirmed, people were legit fleeing the Wakatipu.
Some of them were visitors, who have to go into self-isolation in their own countries.
Events everywhere have, sensibly, been pulled.
Air New Zealand’s pulled all its flights between here and Oz from March 30 till June 30 … after the 2020 Queenstown Winter Festival and the start of the ski season.
Some people who call this place home have, literally, overnight been staring down the barrel of losing their jobs and others haven’t had a lot of sleep this week worrying about the potential impacts and the difficult decisions they might have to make.
Jacinda’s support package – a $12.1 billion plan for the NZ economy, almost half of which will be spent on a wage subsidy package for all coronavirus-impacted businesses – will hopefully provide some relief, for some, for now.
But what if we actually get sick?
That gives rise to a whole bunch more questions and worries and then the heart rate speeds up again and I calm myself by washing my hands.
The general consensus among the people far smarter than me is this might take our economy a while to recover from.
There’s no doubt this will absolutely hurt our community, arguably more than any other in NZ.
That’s what happens when your entire economic proposition’s founded on tourism and, unbelievable as it is, that market all but disappears overnight.
I was cogitating about it this week and can’t help but feel there’s a really sad irony for us.
For the last couple of years the community at large has been having some really big, important, informed and at times passionate conversations about what the future looks like here.
That word, ‘overtourism’ has been bandied about.
But we didn’t spend too much time thinking about what we’d do if our visitor market almost instantaneously vanished.
For a town that’s so bloody reliant on those people arriving on the planes and buses and in the rental cars we get so worked up about, it’s a confronting proposition.
But, the way I see it, this is where we show what we’re made of.
We are nothing if not resilient here – you only need to go through the Scene archives to understand how many times we’ve faced adversity with our shoulders back, our heads high, and a ‘can-do’ attitude to ride out the storm (sometimes literally).
This, while a new challenge, isn’t any different.
As a community, we’ve got to rally.
We can’t bury our heads in the sand, and we can’t fix it.
But we can support our local businesses.
And look out for each other.
Check on your neighbours, your flatmates, your friends.
Sometimes all they might need is someone to talk to, and be given a wee reminder we’re all in this together.
Maybe consider sharing some of the 19 million rolls of loo paper you have secreted away for a rainy day if you know of someone who’s got none.
We’ve also got to do our best to keep that rising panic at bay and know this is another one of those storms we’re going to ride out.
Even if the turbulence right now is making us feel a bit sick, figuratively speaking.
PS: I’m trying to get used to this strange new world of not greeting people with hugs and handshakes … so, if I bust out the full-noise ballet curtsy – complete with flourishes – when I see you, don’t be surprised, and feel free to reciprocate with your own dance move.
We’ll make it a thing because, right now, we’ve gotta find something to laugh at, no?