Burying friends to losing patience – Kiwi expats' global Covid stories emerge

Q+A spoke to three New Zealanders in three different countries on their experience of the lingering Covid-19 infections.

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A New Zealander living in Taiwan is warning Kiwis not to get complacent about the virus. Source: Q+A

More than 14,000km lies between Geoff Walker and his Wairarapa home.

The 66-year-old “semi-retired” Lion’s Club member was invited to Uganda for humanitarian work and has been stuck in the African nation since March 2020, when the borders closed.

In that time, he’s seen a deterioration of the Covid-19 situation.

“We’ve got one of the highest infection rates now. Two weeks ago the testing rate for positive was 30 per cent in Gulu,” he explained.

In recent days he’s buried one of his own colleagues who fell ill with the virus.

“It took him a month to pass away and it destroyed his lungs. So here, it’s serious - it's really serious.

“People in the community don’t seem to understand it.”

Walker has his own struggles as well. He’s been unable to draw his pension whilst in Uganda and has given up on the MIQ process.

“I don’t know when we’ll get back. I almost feel rejected by my own country,” he said.

In Tokyo, Tauranga expat Wayne Shennen operates a New Zealand wine bar.

He admits Japan’s restrictions mean his business is a little less viable than it once was.

“At the moment I’m closed because of the Covid restrictions. Officially, we’re not allowed to sell alcohol so being a New Zealand wine bar, that makes it a little bit difficult.”

As Japan sees another surge in cases, restrictions are starting to bite.

“It feels that now, people are starting to lose patience a little bit,” Shennen said.

“You’ll see more people not wearing masks out and about a little bit.”

Even the delayed Olympic Games, which are set to open on Friday, have a decidedly down-buzz feel.

“The Olympics are not being talked about by so many people. Most of the people that I know, it’s not part of the conversation - it’s really, really crazy.”

Ron Hanson, a New Zealander in neighbouring Taiwan, shared his own experiences.

In a nation once lauded for its “fast coordinated response” a recent outbreak has destabilised that image.

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The country’s now seeing cases of around 500 per day - something the Wellington expat describes as “a real jolt”.

“We had to instantly change our entire response to this pandemic,” he said.

Mask use is universal and there’s compulsory scanning of QR codes.

He hopes the success New Zealand has had in managing Covid does not result in “a fall”.

“We (Taiwan) took our eye off the ball for a moment and it didn’t take much and we had a serious outbreak on our hands.”