SocietyAugust 18, 2022

Every Covid lockdown ranked from worst to least worst


They were all bad, but some were less bad than others. Madeleine Chapman ranks. 

Today is the one year anniversary of the nationwide delta lockdown which then became the Auckland lockdown which then became the year 2022. The government said there would be no more lockdowns and they’ve certainly stuck by their word considering the country has experienced thousands of cases of Covid-19 every day for the past six months with nary a hint of a lockdown.

So, in the spirit of honouring what was truly a generation-defining terrible time for many people, here is how the lockdowns rank in my mind.

Note: There were times, particularly at the end of last year, when places like Northland and Waikato were placed in level three temporarily alongside Auckland. I have not included those as individual lockdowns as frankly it was too confusing and also too depressing scrolling through the official Covid-19 timeline in such detail.

7. The step framework in Auckland (October 5 – December 2, 2021)

Disgusting. This was such a genuinely dark time in Auckland history, in a way that I find myself suddenly remembering and then feel a bit sad and have to think about something else. Two months into lockdown with no end in sight, and then the offering of a picnic as a little treat? Disgusting!

Nobody knew whether or not we could pee at someone else’s house, we’d walked ourselves clean free of serotonin and the outlook was genuinely depressing. Social cohesion was at its lowest as Aucklanders fought with the rest of the country about every government decision regarding its fate. Many people understandably relaxed their own restrictions out of frustration, which only made things tougher.

No one ever did figure out the rules and it was the era when the government’s previously-lauded comms broke down entirely. The worst. Do not recommend. Would not trade again.

6. The delta lockdown when Auckland was separated (September 7 – October 5, 2021) 

This was about when Aucklanders realised they were potentially going to be in lockdown for a long time. The rest of the country moved to level three, and then two, and Auckland just stayed the same. Once we got past that first four weeks and entered new territory in level four, morale crashed through the floor. Watching people who just happened to be in Wellington for work when the lockdown began suddenly out having a lovely old time was a real blow for social cohesion. It was Auckland vs the rest, and every announcement after September 7 further widened the chasm. 

The one beacon of light in this period was when those people were arrested trying to smuggle KFC into Auckland in level three.

The low point was the couple that left Auckland in level four and travelled to Wānaka for a holiday. They were charged with failing to comply with the Covid-19 health order, and got a lot of public hate (probably too much imo) and ended up with one conviction and a $750 fine (not enough imo).  

A lovely photo of Wānaka to help you forget that time (Photo: Getty Images)

5. Nationwide delta lockdown (August 17 – September 7, 2021)

Obviously everything about the delta lockdown was going to rank the lowest. At least this one had remnants of nationwide solidarity, much like the very first lockdown, and a sense of wonder about how it would all pan out. Now, it’s hard to look back on it with anything but a heavy heart. But as it was happening – certainly for the first week – we were all in it together. And that’s nice, I guess.

There’s something bleak about going into a level four lockdown more than a year into a pandemic, though. People knew what to expect so it was hard to see it as anything but a tough time ahead. 

4. The second lockdown in a month for Auckland (February 28 – March 7, 2021) 

Honestly, a week is actually not bad for a lockdown. I didn’t mind this one so much, but the fact that it was the second lockdown announcement in two weeks for Auckland means it drops down to here on the list. Too long to be just a blip but then too short to get used to it. I got the civil defence alert while at the reception of a friend’s wedding, while everyone was on the dance floor. A nice touch. 

3. Auckland in level three, alone for the first time (August 12-30, 2020) 

This one was the first “return” to lockdown since the big one did what it was supposed to do. It was also the first time “Auckland taking one for the team” was trotted out as a sentiment. Boy did that one really get tired by the end of 2021. Two weeks isn’t bad for a lockdown, in my humble opinion. Obvious caveats of housing and company and children determining the difficulty of lockdown for most, but I found that two weeks was just short enough to not be unbearable. In August 2020, everyone was very much still in the team of shmive shmillion so it felt like a worthy sacrifice.

2. The first one (March 25 – April 27, 2020) 

The classic. The OG. The one that started it all. Everyone was terrified and paranoid and willing to do whatever it took to keep Covid out. The adherence to lockdown rules was near impeccable (David Clark notwithstanding) and everyone was helping out as best they could. Remember when people put teddy bears in their windows so that kids could count them on their silly little walks? That was nice.

Everyone got really into cooking bread for some reason and developed strange parasocial relationships with Ashley Bloomfield. I personally developed a deep love for The Chase that remains to this day. Much like the coronavirus, it was novel. It also worked, which is a key factor in determining whether a lockdown sucked a little or a lot.

1. The Valentine’s day special (February 14-17, 2021) 

What a lovely little snack of a lockdown this was. Announced on Valentine’s Day (but not necessarily ruining it because it was the evening already) this little three-day number came at the end of a lovely Covid-free summer, so most of us were just grateful for that and surprised the streak lasted that long.

I got the civil defence alert at a lovely Valentine’s Day screening of Titanic. My friend was with me and had never seen the film before. The alert went off, I kid you not, right as Jack was dying. Anyway it was very funny and alarming and the lockdown was blissfully short. It was mid-week, so unlikely to have completely derailed weddings (though I’m sure it did) and the actual Covid impact was minimal. The platonic ideal of a thing nobody ever wanted. 

The Valentine’s day level three lockdown in Auckland was the least worst Covid lockdown. 

Keep going!