Turning a corner on COVID-19

Published on 14 May 2020

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We, all of us, have achieved a significant milestone. Today we move from COVID-19 Alert Level 3 restrictions down to Level 2. Shops cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces can now reopen. Schools will follow suit from next Monday. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said when making the announcement on Monday, this is a triumph and one we have achieved ahead of most other nations.

We have accomplished this through the efforts you and other Kiwis have made. Yes, we have advantages as an island nation (our borders are easy to control), but the main reason we have succeeded in avoiding much higher infection rates is due to New Zealanders working together. As a nation, we have listened to medical experts and collectively applied their advice. Many of you have taken it as a personal challenge to beat this pandemic.

I have witnessed the way communities have joined forces despite the physical difficulties in doing that. You have ensured our most vulnerable are looked after and no one is forgotten. I am particularly proud of the way the Far North has stepped up to distribute care packs to those in our remotest communities. It’s hard not to compare these efforts to military manoeuvres: the way individuals and groups have marshalled their resources, especially around marae, was like witnessing a well-drilled army swing into action.

The Prime Minister was not shy of using military metaphors on Monday, reminding us that we may have won a few battles, but have not won the war. As we all look forward to a weekend with far greater freedom, it is crucial to remember that the coronavirus still poses a significant risk to our health. Medical experts agree the disease is now contained, but we are not yet out of danger – the risk of community transmission remains very real.

Under Level 2, we must continue to observe physical distancing, and be ready to provide personal details if required for contact tracing. Providing these details to business owners or at public venues is now the most effective weapon we have to combat new outbreaks of the virus should they occur.

Like other businesses, the Council will ask for contact details as our we reopen our service centres, libraries and i-SITES. We are not returning to ‘business as usual’ quite yet – our frontline facilities will have limited opening hours, reduced services and strict safety protocols in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Under Level 2 we cannot have gatherings of more than 10 people, so Council, Community Board and committee meetings will continue to be conducted online for the time being. Recordings of these will be posted on our website so you can remain informed of the decisions we are making.

I want to thank all Far North residents for helping to us to get to this point. There is more work to do, but we have turned a corner.