Can I start by thanking everyone for their efforts so far as we have worked through four weeks of lock down. Everyone has played their part to date and it is appreciated. We must certainly acknowledge the decisions made but it is also the day-to-day actions of each and every one of us that has made the difference. May I extend my sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones. As I write, 13 people have died with Covid-19. My thoughts are also with those with the virus and in particular, the 12-or-so currently in hospital. We wish them all a speedy recovery.
As you will have seen, the date we will move to Alert Level Three has been announced as Monday April 27 at 11:59pm. Until then, we remain at Alert Level Four.
There are understandably a lot of questions given the vague nature of the details. Key questions I have been fielding are how school will work or why someone’s business cannot re-open despite being able to do so safely.
I worry that the government has not thought things through sufficiently. For example, under the guidelines, some children can go back to school if they are Year 10 and under. This means teachers somehow have to teach students in school and simultaneously be available to teach online for those who cannot—being in two places at once is never easy!
Similarly, under level three, tradies can work which is great news for them (and those of us needing work completed). However, it is unclear how they get supplies with parts of those usual supply chains closed.
I remain committed to pressing the government for details on your behalf and providing as much clarity as I can. Hopefully we will see some more information around this soon. In the meantime I have added a Q & A at the bottom of this newsletter which may prove helpful, and you can visit covid19.govt.nz for more information.
As always, feel free to let me know what is on your mind or if you have any particular questions; I and my team remain committed to assisting you and getting back to you as soon as we can.
Golf, bowling greens, and croquet lawns are now able to be maintained
Locally, there has remained no shortage of issues to address. My thanks to everyone who has been in touch, be it to seek help with a loved one trapped overseas, query business support, or simply to share a view on decisions being made.
There are two issues I thought I would talk a little more about. One shows local advocacy works, but the other shows sometimes no matter what I—and other MPs—do, the government won’t budge.
The first was a great win around allowing green keepers to maintain golf and bowling greens, or the croquet lawn. Up until a few days ago, it was not deemed an essential service but I and other National MPs successfully lobbied government to make an exception. It took a bit of work, but we got a good result and now green keepers can safely undertake the works needed. As context, such greens need constant work or else become ruined and end up costing clubs (and their members!) huge amounts of money. These activities are a great way for people to de-stress which is important now and moving into the future. I also pointed out that while council is allowed to mow lawns around the city, a single green keeper wasn’t allowed to tend a green. Thankfully, a good result and pleasing to have government respond to local concerns.
Unfortunately, however, despite my best efforts to persuade the government to allow us to swim at our Eastern Bay beaches, this was banned. A large number of locals had been in touch asking for some common sense to prevail, seeing most had been swimming at the likes of Kohimarama Beach safely for decades. They noted that the water is reasonably shallow and calm, and swimming is an exercise activity just like walking, running, or riding a bike. While moving to level three will once again allow locals to swim, I feel it was an overreach by government to outright ban this.
ANZAC Day is this Saturday. Many of us will be used to attending the services at the Orakei RSA, College Rifles, or St Heliers, but unlike other years, we are not able to gather to commemorate. This year, the RSA and our Defence Forces are therefore encouraging us to Stand at Dawn. I, along with them, encourage you to consider rising for a 6am service, which will be broadcast online and on radio at this time, in your homes or at your gate. In this way, we can honour our veterans—those who paid the ultimate price—and those who continue to serve the realm today. For more information you can check out www.standatdawn.com
Also, one of our local Scout troupes (St Heliers/Glendowie) is working on a virtual service for ANZAC Day. As you may know, these Scouts are instrumental in the St Heliers commemoration each year so it's wonderful they are finding another avenue this year. I will share the ‘where’ of this service once I have the information, mostly likely on my Facebook.
Lest We Forget.
Covid—Statistics, Politics and the Way Forward
While the days are busy, I have taken some time to write down my thoughts on the situation we find ourselves in. You may be interested in reading them in my opinion piece titled 'Covid—Statistics, Politics and the Way Forward' which critiques the decisions government has made so far, the role of media in current decision making, and offers a range of suggestions moving forward. It is quite comprehensive so you might want to make a cup of tea or coffee before reading; it can be found on my website here or on my Facebook page here.
Again, I hope this finds you well and know I remain committed to assisting you so do feel very welcome to drop me a line anytime.
Covid Level 3 - Q & A
In many ways, level 3 is very similar to level 4—we are being asked to stay in our 'bubbles' as much as possible. A few more businesses can open, visits to people can happen under certain circumstances, and the likes of swimming is now permitted. Below is some information primarily sourced from an article in the NZ Herald with a few additions myself.
Can I leave the house? What can I do?
The line is to stay home. If you are not at work, school, exercising or getting essentials, then you must be at home, the same as at Level 4.
You can exercise at parks or beaches within your region, but the closer to home the better.
How far can I drive?
The line is you can drive a 'short distance' and if essential. Some examples include:
• Workers travelling to do essential work
• Going to work or school (only in neighbouring region)
• Shared bubble arrangements
• Relocating a home or business
• Those travelling for medical reasons
• Emergencies and giving effect to court orders
Can I go to the bach for the weekend?
No. Even if it's in the same region, your bubble is still your main home. The issue is not so much the travel, as level 3 requires us to have a single bubble or home.
Can I go back to work? What about my business?
Some, but not all businesses, can start to reopen at alert level 3. However, if people can work from home, they should. If that's not possible, staff have to make sure they keep 1 metre between each other, record who they interact with, have good hygiene practices, and surfaces are disinfected.
Your business must be contactless. Your customers can pay online, over the phone or in a contactless way. Delivery or pick-up must also be contactless.
If businesses involve face-to-face contact, they'll have to remain closed. That includes gyms, house cleaners, hairdressers, sales people and masseuses. Exceptions continue to be supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies or permitted health services. I should add here, there a lack of clarity currently around the likes of dental or optometrist services.
A couple of examples for businesses opening:
• If you run a takeaway business, you can reopen it if you have pre-ordered contactless pick up, or can do home delivery.
• A real estate agent can open, but people should work from home if they can. The agent can enter someone's home but can't have customers in the office. You cannot run an open home.
• Construction businesses can start work again but strict hygiene measures must be put in place – and office staff who can work from home should do so.
What will I need to do to open my business?
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says they will set up a self-accreditation regime and will help businesses put together a worksite plan: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/news/details-on-alert-level-3-workplace-restrictions-released/
Will I need PPE if I'm going back to work?
The advice for retailers, manufacturers and the service industries is: If you used PPE in your business before Covid-19, then keep using it in the same way. If you didn't use PPE in your business before Covid-19, you don't need it now.
Will schools be open at alert level 3?
The preference is that the majority of children learning from home. Early learning centres and schools will physically be open for up to Year 10 for families that need them.
At-risk students and staff should also stay at home.
Tuesday (28th) will be a teachers only day and Wednesday (29th) will be the first day of term.
Secondary students in Years 11-13 and tertiary students will mostly continue distance learning at home because children over 14 years old can legally be at home by themselves.
Tertiary education facilities may open for limited activities involving small stable groups of up to 10 people who do not change. Research and hands-on learning like trades courses that can't be done off campus can happen in small groups with appropriate physical distancing.
Can I get a takeaway meal?
Yes, you can get your favourite takeaway as long as you can place your order and pick it up without face-to-face contact. For example, you can use a drive-through or order a meal through a delivery service.
What does extending your bubble mean?
Under alert level 3, you can add more people into your bubble but the line is "keep it exclusive and keep it small".
For example, if you have extended family, a caregiver that you need, children in shared care, or you're a single person who wants the company of a sibling, you can relax your strict bubble - a little.
Are funerals and weddings allowed?
Funerals and weddings can go ahead under alert level 3 but will be restricted to no more than 10 people and you'll need to keep a list of who attended.
But you can't share a meal, food or a reception afterwards.
Can I go for a swim?
Yes; swimming at the likes of Kohi beach or St Heliers (amongst others) will be allowed.
Can I go for a tramp?
You can go for an easy day walk but don't do anything too challenging which could put you in harm's way. You can also go mountain biking but, again, don't do anything too challenging where you could injure yourself or others.
Can I visit elderly people?
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said people would have to use their judgment.
People over 70 are still vulnerable to the virus, as are those who have pre-existing conditions so it's really important they're kept safe.
Ideally, you should limit the people interacting with them, especially if they're sick, and also keep using good hygiene measures. If your bubble has both a child and an older person, it's advisable to keep your children home from school.
Will playgrounds be open?
Playgrounds will remain off bounds as the risk of spreading infection is still too high.
How will alert level 3 be enforced?
Level 3 comes with higher trust but there would still be police acting as enforcers which would act on large groups congregating.
For more information, visit covid19.govt.nz