New Zealand’s European Correspondents
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, two reporters have been covering everything that’s happening from the other side of the world. TVNZ’s Daniel Faitaua and Newshub’s Lloyd Burr are New Zealand media’s European correspondents. Kea spoke to them about reporting on the pandemic, and what it’s like being so far away from home during a time like this.
How has reporting on Covid-19 compared to other major global events in your career?
DF: Reporting on the pandemic is the most complicated, difficult and important story I am covering. Covid-19 is a harrowing story – the tragedy is immediate, real and unfolding before your eyes but for every tragic story it’s important to remember there are tales of hope and behind those stories are some incredible kiwis.
LB: It’s been a mix of boredom, confusion, lethargy, and fear. Usually for big stories, I’d be on the ground, it’d be hectic, and there’d be a bit of hype. But for Covid-19, I’ve been stuck indoors and haven’t been allowed to travel anywhere. I’ve certainly never washed and sanitised my hands as often with other stories!
What differences have you observed between the UK/Europe and New Zealand in their approach/response to Coronavirus?
DF: New Zealand imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns and contained the outbreaks. Its proactive approach to limiting the spread shows it’s very likely Aotearoa has eliminated Coronavirus. Keeping it that way is the next big challenge. In contrast, the UK’s taken a reactive approach where no aggressive social distancing measures were put in place until 7 weeks after the first confirmed case. It’s somewhat complacent attitude, with mixed messages tragically has resulted in more than 40,000 deaths making it the deadliest country in Europe for Coronavirus.
LB: A clear and concise message and plan has done wonders for New Zealand. And it’s made the UK’s response look and feel incompetent and ad Hoc. While everyone back home has been talking about levels and bubbles and seeing successful containment, the UK’s been failing over PPE, rest home deaths, misleading test numbers, and has only just decided to quarantine all new arrivals. It’s made me proud of New Zealand, but also rather homesick.
Being away from home during times like these can be super challenging. How have you managed to look after your own mental and physical health?
DF: I take breaks when I feel wound up, rest and sleep. I try eating healthy, drink enough water and exercise where possible. And, I go easy on myself because these are really tough times and it’s important, I don’t burn out. This is a marathon. I’m in it for the long haul.
LB: It’s been incredibly tough on my mental health, particularly not being able to see friends or get out of London. To be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit lost – all this time cooped up inside by myself has made me all existential and thinking about what I want to do with my life etc. It’s certainly brought my camera operator Dan and I closer together – thank goodness we get along so well. I’ve been walking every day, and running a few times a week, and the Boris Bikes have been awesome to get some fresh air on my face. I’m just taking it each day at a time.
How has your day-to-day changed since Covid-19, and how have you adapted to these changes?
DF: Personal safety is hugely important, all face to face interviews are conducted by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres and I take steps to avoid crowds or crowded spaces. I no longer take public transport and either self-drive or Uber.
LB: Significantly changed. No travel has been the biggest change. Simply, we are stuck in London. We were meant to be covering the America’s Cup pre-regattas in Cagliari and Portsmouth which would’ve been epic. I love sailing so it would have been a real buzz covering them for work. My day-to-day routine now consists of working from home or from camera op Dan’s place. We don’t go into the ITV office anymore, we’ve reduced our Uber usage, and stopped all public transport use.
Lloyd, you actually think you contracted Coronavirus. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?
LB: It was horrid. I was out of action for two weeks with the illness, and a further 10 days of quarantine before I could leave the house and get back to work. The illness was brutal and had me in bed the whole time. I had no energy, I had bed sweats, I had piercing headaches, sore eyes, aching muscles, and swollen glands. Dairy products tasted strange too. After I’d recovered from that, I got tonsillitis and was put on antibiotics. But I had an allergic reaction to them and my whole body rashed over. So it’s been a rough few months. I couldn’t have done it without daily checkups by camera op Dan, and meals from his partner Emily Cooper, and food packages from my wonderful colleagues at MediaWorks.
In light of so many tragedies that have happened throughout Covid, we have also seen amazing cases of unity, community, and hope. What’s been the most challenging part of reporting the pandemic, and what has been the most rewarding?
DF: The most challenging part is you’re often potentially exposed in infection through travel, interviews, and the locations you’re working from. Also, the pandemic has thrown many industries into crisis and the media sector is one of them. You can’t help but feel for the hundreds of journalists who’ve lost their jobs, taken pay cuts or temporarily laid off. The most rewarding part is meeting New Zealand nurse Jenny McGee who treated British prime minister Boris Johnson and the kiwi paramedic graduates from AUT leading the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic here in Britain.
LB: I’ve loved telling the stories of Kiwis and how they’ve adapted to this new world. There’s Sam and Rachel Benton who help run Hampstead Volunteer Corps. There’s professional dancer Steph Lee who spends her days rehearsing in her Brixton living room. There’s Secret Goldmine’s Mike Meehan and The Laundry’s Mel Brown who’re adapting their businesses to survive. There are the Kiwi teachers keeping Orion Primary open and the kids fed, and other wonderful New Zealanders like Sam Taylor who is working as a hospital cleaner alongside hundreds of other Kiwis. They are all stories I love telling and stories that have helped me get through this bizarre time. The most challenging part has been covering the recent BLM protests, and trying to keep ourselves safe while still being in the thick of it. We’ve gone through heaps of face masks and hand sanitiser, and both looked after each other.
While in the UK, how do you stay connected to home?
DF: Video calls help bridge the gap. I schedule regular virtual catch-up with friends and family with Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime.
LB: Video calling is a godsend, especially when chatting with my two gorgeous wee nieces. My family also has a number of chat groups that we share pics and updates on which has been particularly nice and comforting over the last 3 months.