Checkpoints, swabs and isolation make residents in New Zealand’s biggest city question the government’s approach to Covid-19

Motorists wait in line for a Covid-19 test in Auckland as New Zealand’s largest city goes into lockdown.
Motorists wait in line for a Covid-19 test in Auckland as New Zealand’s largest city goes into lockdown.Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The catch cry of “be kind” – which prime minister Jacinda Ardern impressed upon New Zealand since its first lockdown a year ago – is in danger of being replaced with a less positive mantra as Aucklanders struggle through their second Covid-19 lockdown in a fortnight.

The country’s biggest city has been in level-three lockdown since Sunday morning as a result of two cases of community transmission, which were found to have happened while an earlier period of level-three restrictions were in place – threatening to fracture the unity of the “team of five million”.

On Monday, Ardern expressed frustration and urged people to hold each other to account. No one she had spoken to thought it was tolerable, she said, adding that the most recent cases were “facing the full judgment of the entire nation”.

Many members of the public have released pent-up frustrations on social media directed at Covid-19 rule breakers, Aucklanders who took the chance to get out of the city in the hours before the lockdown began at 6am Sunday, and the government.

Motorists returning to Auckland on Sunday fumed about waits of up to seven hours to get through checkpoints. “I can understand checking people leaving Auckland but it is ridiculous checking those who come in,” one reader tells the New Zealand Herald.

“Our two-hour journey home took nine hours. It was 26 degrees and there were many families with young children … I wonder if Jacinda thinks it is OK to be in a car for that long with small children and little food or liquid?”

While waiting time at Auckland’s road borders was down to less than 30 minutes by Monday evening, on Wednesday there were many signs Aucklanders were losing their patience.

“Well I am grumpy too,” says Tina Woodfield, at the Covid-19 testing station in the Otara town centre in south Auckland. She had just had her third voluntary nasal swab in a year.

“We have all been advised what to do. [If you have symptoms] get tested and stay home. There are no excuses. We shouldn’t have to go through this,” says Woodfield, a hotel receptionist who got tested because she had flu symptoms.