When New Zealand entered alert level 4 lockdown in March 2020, streets and public spaces became deserted as people isolated themselves in their ‘bubbles’ to stop the transmission of Covid-19.
At the time, Aotearoa had 102 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and the Ministry of Health said the virus was spreading in the community. The borders were already shut.
The level 4 lockdown started at 11.59pm on 25 March 2020, two days after the prime minister’s announcement, and meant non-essential businesses and schools closed.
New Zealanders were urged to stay at home to save lives, and to leave home only for essential purposes such as grocery shopping.
Auckland CBD’s busy main road, Queen St, was practically empty back then.
Although pedestrians and traffic are back to somewhat normal levels in 2021, the difference from prior to the pandemic is seen as many adorn masks in the city centre, which hosts managed isolation facilities, and some businesses face closures due to the impact of lockdowns.
Perhaps one silver lining out of all this is that businesses and motorists around the world had to find alternative solutions to travel and do work in the face of lockdowns – meaning air quality improved.
It was reported in May that air pollution in New Zealand’s main centres dropped by about three-quarters during the Covid-19 lockdown. NIWA air quality scientist Ian Longley estimated it would be another 15 to 20 years before the country experienced the same level of clean air.
Levels of air pollution once again soared as soon as restrictions began to be eased.