WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Four German students who were invited to take shelter with New Zealand families during the national lockdown said they had fun sharing food, playing soccer and trying to learn guitar.
And their host family said that the unexpected guests had equally enriched their three children, because they spent the night baking marshmallows or playing cards.
The students had planned to travel around the country when New Zealand imposed lockdown almost two weeks ago in an effort to limit the spread of the corona virus.
They are among the 12,000 German visitors who have registered for the repatriation program on flights chartered by the German government. Students wait every day to hear news about when they will leave after the charter flight began last week.
“The weather is very good here and the people are also friendly,” said student Thomas Metzler. “And we have a large property, so we can do many things. We are not just locked in the toilet.”
This country house is located near Cambridge on the North Island. In New Zealand it is known as a lifestyle property – smaller than agriculture but big enough to have sheep and chickens running around. And they can walk to the river.
Metzler and Felix Gard, both 23 years old, are veterinary students last year and have spent a month working with horses near Cambridge under the supervision of New Zealand veterinarian Kate Dingemans. The couple then joined girlfriends Laura Spottke, 22, and Julia Betz, 23, for the planned travel month.
But when they begin their journey, the virus situation worsens. Metzler said they wanted to leave but the only flight they could find was expensive.
“So, yes, we decided to stay in New Zealand and wait for what happened,” he said. “Find a place to stay when locked.”
Dingemans keep in touch with students and insist that they stay with their families.
“I don’t want to think they will be stuck somewhere,” he said. “This is truly an added value to our lives.”
Gard said they had heard on the news about people around the world who had suffered, including several German tourists in New Zealand.
“It’s a big problem for them to find a place to live,” he said. “So we were really lucky.”
Even so, they were all excited to return home and see their families again.
New Zealand has recorded 1,160 cases of the corona virus, including one death. About 40% of cases are related to foreign travelers returning home, and the country has so far avoided a large local outbreak.
Rosario reports from Bangkok.
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