COVID 19 and Te Tau Ihu


2020 was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact continues to felt across the world.  New Zealand suffered few deaths, and relatively few cases, however the economic, social and emotional impact of lockdown and closed borders, alongside the constant fear of what might happen, has been significant.

COVID 19 Be kind social media tile

COVID 19. New Zealand Government logo - be kind

Te Tau Ihu, like most of the South Island suffered few cases and deaths, but experienced restrictions and lockdowns with the rest of the country. The nationwide lockdowns of March to May 2020, when the country was in Alert Levels 3 & 4, and people had to stay at home and remain within their household bubble, may turn out to be one of the defining historic moments of the 21st century.

The Life in the Bubble project, initiated by the Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Public and Tasman District Libraries, invited people to document their experiences of this time, in physical and digital formats. Alongside this, the Nelson Provincial Museum collected created in response to the pandemic. Many of these objects, documents, photographs and associated stories can be seen on the Museum’s Collections online site.

Pieces written for the Life in the Bubble Project

A collection of pieces contributed by the community to the project. 


Life in the Bubble Karen Lee visual diary kitchen

Life in the Bubble - visual diary by Karen Lee. The Kitchen. Image supplied by author


Life in the Bubble Karen Lee visual diary shopping

Life in the Bubble - visual diary by Karen Lee. Shopping. Image supplied by author

Writings and thoughts


Life in the Bubble Karen Lee Visual diary Mothers Day

Life in the Bubble Visual diary by Karen Lee. Mothers Day. Image supplied by author

Life in the Bubble Karen Lee visual diary Zoom

Life in the Bubble visual diary by Karen Lee. Zoom. Image supplied by author

Contributions from children and young adults

COVID-19 and Te Tau Ihu - a summary

The first case in the region was notified to the Nelson Marlborough Medical Officers of Health on 20 March, and the last one on 29 April, with a total of 50 cases. Three cases required acute hospital care for some stage of their illness – two at Wairau Hospital and one at Nelson Hospital. Two people required intensive care. 32 acute hospital bed-days were used to care for COVID-19 patients, across intensive care and general wards. No COVID-19 deaths were recorded locally.

Some statistics:

  • 27 cases were women, 23 were men. The ages ranged from 12-82 years, with a median age of 45 years.
  • The ethnicity breakdown is: 41 cases European or ‘other’, 7 cases ethnicity Māori, 1 case NZ European/Māori, 1 case Pasifika
  • The regional breakdown for cases under territorial authorities (the national requirement for case reporting) is: 22 cases were resident in the Marlborough District, 21 in the Tasman District, 7 in Nelson City.

A timeline:

  • 29 December 2019 - Chinese authorities advise the WHO of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause, originating in Wuhan, Hubei province.
  • 7 January 2020- China isolates a novel coronavirus, at first called 2019-nCoV and later SARS-CoV-2 
  • 30 January  - WHO declares the epidemic a global health emergency
  • 12 February - Disease renamed COVID-19 
  • 16 March - Government bans non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500-plus people; schools and universities exempt
  • 19 March - Government bans indoor events with more than 100 people; exemptions for workplaces, schools, supermarkets and public transport. Government also advises New Zealanders not to travel overseas and urges New Zealanders who are travelling overseas to consider returning home immediately
  • 20 March - Border closed to most foreigners
  • 21 March – Following the border closure, an alert level system is announced. New Zealand is at Level 2
  • 23 March - Government lifts country to Alert Level 3 and announces widespread restrictions on movement will come into effect at 11.59pm on 25 March under Alert Level 4
  • 27 April - Total deaths: 19. Combined total 1469. Alert Level reduced from 4 to 3 at 11.59pm
  • 13 May – With no new cases, in stages over the coming days, New Zealand moves from Alert Level 3 to 2

A complete Covid timeline for New Zealand has been compiled by NZDoctor. 


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