Tom, Community Support Worker. Auckland, NZ.

The previous government's covid measures have completely changed my life. I am no longer the person I was before 2020. I no longer enjoy life as before, I merely survive from day to day. I have far less hope for the future, and I now doubt whether I even have a future in New Zealand anymore. I lost all trust in government, media, medicine, law and even a lot of my fellow citizens. With this new government and especially NZ First, I see the potential for change. But the carnage that they have to rectify is so vast, I don't know if it's too late.

I believe the lockdowns and the mandates along with other government covid policies caused irreparable harm to this country. They tore apart the fragile social fabric which was holding this nation together. Even though they may have ended the harm is there for anyone with any sense to see. Families and friends have been divided due to the demonizing and bullying that was instigated and led by the previous government and the media. Anyone who questioned the main stream narrative or who stood up for themselves was villanised as a conspiracy theorist, an anti-vaxxer or otherwise somehow dirty or unclean – some sort of pest that should have all their human rights stripped away. The harms caused by the government's measures are almost too vast to list. People's individual stories could fill endless tomes. But I daresay most of the suffering will remain hidden and silent. Certainly the dead can no longer speak for themselves. And some people are so brainwashed that they can't even recognise what has happened to them. The businesses closed down, the relatives dying alone, lonely and scared. And perhaps worst of all the innocent children and teenagers whose lives were thrown under the bus for a virus which, despite early fear mongering, posed next to no risk to them whatsoever. The lost years of learning, socialising, celebrating and developing which sadly they will never be able to regain. Those harms are going to be felt now and well into the future. The anxiety and other mental health issues that the government's covid policies and manipulating, blackmailing ‘nudge' tactics caused are deep and far reaching and should never be used again.

I had two vaccine shots within a three month period (under extreme duress and fear of losing my livelihood and being ostracized from society, which eventually did happen anyway). I then caught covid. I was then due to have a booster to keep my job again. I declined. Why would anyone in their right mind take another shot when the first two didn't work and I already had natural immunity? And if I took the third shot, would I then have to take a fourth? A fifth? A sixth? When would it end? Originally they said you'd ‘only' have to take two. Remember “Two shots for summer fam'?”

Since the pandemic started in 2020 I've become more and more isolated. I worked for an NGO as a community support worker. Our office shut with only a couple of hours warning, everyone just grabbed whatever they could and were sent home. From that point on we worked from home and barely saw any colleagues and were not able to see clients face to face either. (Strange how the mental health of the clients became utterly forgotten about compared to the supposed grave danger of covid – many of the clients suffered terrible isolation and fear from the goverment's pandemic plan and sadly some of them died – and not from the virus). One of my clients was found collapsed on the road not long after taking a covid ‘vaccine'. She was taken to Auckland hospital, where nobody knew who she was. It was until a few days later that we were able to track her down. I spoke to the doctor and he was at a complete loss for why she'd collapsed. Apparently she'd had massive liver and kidney failure but he couldn't point to any reason why. At the time I had only heard about myocarditis as a possible vaccine side effect but looking back now it seems highly likely that the vaccine caused her collapse and subsequent decline. Since then she has gone from living alone, mostly independently, to living in an aged care facility so she can have 24 hour care. and she was only 52. I also heard of another client who died several months after I'd been mandated out of my job. She was found dead on her sofa of heart failure. I have no idea if the vaccine contributed to her death (although she was jabbed) but certainly being locked up and not being able to meet with her supports and go for walks no doubt contributed as she was obese and needed assistance.

The isolation of working from home and not seeing anyone became even more pronounced when I was terminated from my job in July 2022. You were made to feel like a social pariah if you hadn't had the booster and many friends and colleagues wouldn't come near me as I wasn't ‘up to date' with my shots. I no longer see the majority of my former friends or colleagues.

During that time I remember being forced into wearing a mask in most situations, and on several occasions the mask induced me into having panic attacks. It was the feeling of being shut in and separate and also the intensity of the eye contact without being able to see or read the rest of a person's face coupled with the difficulty in being able to breathe properly while wearing them that induced my anxiety attacks. I applied for an exemption and got sent a pathetic, generic little card to show to people. But I don't think many people thought it was legitimate and I got stopped and challenged everywhere I went because I wasn't wearing a mask. Not to mention just the general looks of fear and disgust that you got from other members of the public for not wearing one. Sometimes it was easier to just put one on despite the possibility of it triggering a panic attack.

I found the whole government marketing of the pandemic patronising and infantilising. Especially the way they directed it at people who were merely questioning it and standing up for their rights. You were made to feel like a moron at best or an evil murderer at worst if you even questioned what was going on. The tone of some of the marketing campaign was ‘come on you dummy, it's just a little shot.' Or you'd be bribed with vouchers or food. It was utterly low and contemptible. I remember being approached outside the supermarket by a mobile vax crew and they said they could give you your covid and flu shot at the same time. It was all presented as so casual, cool and easy – no big deal at all. I mean, the best case scenario was you'd probably be sick for a day or two but that's just normal side effects, and don't worry you probably won't get that pesky myocarditis thing and hey, if you do, it'll only be ‘mild'. Oh, OK. I'm not a doctor but I'd rather my heart remained its normal size thank you. When I told the young lady offering the vaccines that I'd already had two and wouldn't be having anymore, she said her mum was an ‘anti-vaxxer' and she actually agreed with me for showing restraint, especially as I'd had covid. It was just a job for her. She was another one swept along, doing the bidding of those higher up because it seemed like we all had to go along with it, right?

At the time when I very reluctantly got my second shot, the ‘nurse' (I think she was a nurse – I'd never seen her before at my GP's and a lot of the regular staff seemed to not be there anymore) seemed very nervous and she told me, very honestly – perhaps too honestly for my nerves, that this was a new product and they weren't sure of the side effects, although in young men there was a definite warning of myocarditis that had just been added to the label. I'd already (through a painstaking process of self-suppression) made up my mind to take the jab (looking back now I can't believe that I went through with it, but the thought of losing my job and being ostracized felt so overwhelming that I was willing roll the dice with my life – how crazy is that?) and so despite her warnings and against my intuition I took it. A few weeks later I caught covid and since then (about two years now) I've been in physical and mental decline. I can't stay whether it's long covid or vaccine injury. Whenever I talk to my GP he says that there's no test for long covid and he won't entertain a vax injury as they're the ones who gave it to me. He states that it's anxiety and depression connected to job loss, even though I know that's not the case. I know what anxiety and depression looks like but extreme fatigue, cognitive issues and chronic back pain are all new symptoms that I never had before 2022.

Before all this, I didn't really have a strong interest or opinion about politics or vaccines or any of this stuff, but they forced it all down our throats. You're either on our side (the team of five million) and you take the shots and do as we say or you're outside the castle gates and left to fend for yourself. And all of these terror tactics were done with such a smiling, patronising face – ‘we know what's best for you so shut up and take it.' This really felt like an insidious form of fascism, the iron fist in the velvet glove delivered with smiling red lips. Thank God we seem to be heading in a better direction now. I think the previous government overreached and got too carried away with their egos and their crusading self-righteousness – not to mention their desire to look good on the international stage and further their career by ruthlessly pursuing ‘zero covid'. The previous PM resigning and leaving the country speaks volumes. And the covid government's landslide loss at the last election proves that the majority were not on their side at all. The collapse of the main stream media further illustrates that people are sick of all the gas-lighting of the past few years. People were isolated and were self-censoring because they were made to feel like they were the only ones questioning the narrative; they were ‘fringe' or ‘selfish' or ‘deluded' or a ‘conspiracy theorist'. When in reality, they were in the majority, and were being manipulated and ‘nudged' by a very small class of ‘elites'.

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