'We got told the truth so that we wouldn't panic' - author with the inside word hails pandemic response

An author who found himself without regular work during the lockdown has turned the unprecedented experience into a new book.

Paul Little, who's written - and ghost-written - biographies for the likes of Sir Ray Avery, Sir Edmund Hillary and Willie Apiata, spoke to 21 people whose lives were turned upside-down more than most. 

The Covid Chronicles is a real-time look at how 21 different Kiwis got through the lockdown earlier this year - microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Chief Science Adviser Juliet Gerrard among them.

"I got those people on board and then spoke to them every week for half-an-hour," Little told The AM Show on Thursday.

"We wrote week-by-week what they were going through, how things changed and how they confronted all the challenges... Some people reacted well, some people reacted badly."

New Zealand went into alert level 4 suddenly in late March, as the virus behind COVID-19 started to spread. Little started interviewing people in April, and ended when the country moved to level 1 in June, having got rid of the virus (at least temporarily).

"All our regular work dried up, and I was very lucky that I was able to convince somebody to publish this book, and let me do it."

Speaking to Dr Gerrard gave him confidence in New Zealand's response to the pandemic, which by the time the book came out on Wednesday, had killed 940,000 people worldwide. 

 "I didn't know the Chief Science Advisors from all the countries around the world were talking to each other regularly through this whole process, working out what was the best thing to do. I ended up with a whole lot of confidence about how this thing had been run…"

"At the start we didn't know how people were going to react - the whole place could have fallen to pieces. It was very well-managed in terms of people not panicking. 

"You've got Trump saying, 'I didn't tell the truth about it because I didn't want people to panic.' We got told the truth so that we wouldn't panic, and it worked." 

New Zealand's response to the pandemic has been hailed by the World Health Organization.