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Wairarapa alert to keeping it all on the level

PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

Wairarapa plunged into Covid-19 Alert Level 2 at 6pm on Wednesday night as part of the Wellington region. Wairarapa Times-Age reporters checked in with leaders and businesses to see how the change would impact the region.

MP responds

Wairarapa residents travelling beyond the Wellington region should “take their bubble with them”, said MP Kieran McAnulty.

Unlike Auckland’s roadblocks in March, there will be no restrictions sealing off the Wellington region.

Level 2 allows people to travel as usual.

McAnulty could be one case of a person commuting across the Wellington region and beyond because his constituency extends beyond the region.

The northern reaches of the Wairarapa electorate take in parts of the Horizons and Hawke’s Bay regions.

Should he travel to the northern parts of his constituency, he said he would respect Level 2 guidelines and “taking my alert level with me”.

“Even though those in the Tararua District and Central Hawke’s Bay are not in Alert Level 2, I will remain in level 2 through this time.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure that we get ahead of this as quickly as possible.

Councils respond

Carterton District Council compliance and advisory officer Lizzen Nobathu checking in on businesses ahead of yesterday’s alert level shift.

Carterton District Council spokeswoman Elisa Brown said all council buildings and services would continue to operate under Alert Level 2, with safe distancing measures in place.

The council has QR codes in parks, public toilets, council buildings, screens, and sanitiser at council buildings.

Saturday night’s show at the town’s events centre, Gold Dust Woman, has been postponed. More than 200 tickets had been sold.

Each council encouraged residents to visit “legitimate sources” such as the joint covid-19 Wairarapa Updates Facebook page and WREMO, Wairarapa DHB, covid19.govt.nz websites.

Masterton District Council spokesman Steve Rendle said the library remained open but on a “click and collect basis”.

People can ask for books online or by phone and get a time to collect them.

Wairarapa Archive and Waiata House are closed to the public.

The recreation centre remains open, but with a 100-person limit.

The council’s Queen St service centre remains open with appropriate social distancing, QR code, and a sanitation station.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said he advised residents not to travel unnecessarily, encouraged work from home if this was an option, used the covid-19 QR code app everywhere, and avoided unnecessary meetings where possible.

“We would encourage businesses to insist customers use the covid-19 QR app on entering their premises. And of course, continue wearing face masks on all public transport.”

The council’s buildings would also operate under Level 2 rules.

Hospital visitors limited

Visitors to Wairarapa Hospital are limited to one per patient at a time to maintain distancing requirements.

A Wairarapa District Health Board spokesperson said the DHB advised everyone to check the locations listed by the Ministry of Health and follow the specific isolation and testing advice for each location.

“If you have visited these locations at the specified times, you must go home and follow all the advice provided by the Ministry of Health,” the spokesperson said.

“If you need to isolate, please do so and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453, and follow their advice.

“If you need to be tested, you should phone your medical centre for information.”

Those who have had contact with someone who had been to a location of interest but had not been there themselves and were feeling well could behave as normal, but were advised to act quickly should they develop symptoms.

“Do not go to work or socialise if you have cold or flu symptoms. Please call Healthline … or phone your medical practice to get tested – phone first.”

This advice also applied to those who had received the covid-19 vaccination, the spokesperson said.

“Although the vaccine is highly effective, you still need to follow the Ministry of Health advice.”

Covid-19 vaccinations would continue to take place, though the DHB may reschedule some bookings to ensure the number of people in waiting areas met physical distancing requirements.

The DHB would contact anyone whose booking might be affected.

“Please do not just ‘walk in’ to the vaccination centres without a booking – you will be turned away as you do need to have an appointment.”

The DHB would continue to update its website and Facebook page, the spokesperson said.

Businesses prepared

Wild Oats Bakery and Café manager Jahlisa Namana says the business is ready for Alert Level 2.

Businesses around the region moved quickly to adapt to the new Level-2 restrictions, with cafes removing tables and organisers and venues cancelling or postponing events.

Monique Kloeg, general manager of Masterton’s Ten O’Clock Cookie bakery and cafe, said its capacity could be cut by one-third.

“We will give all our team the option of wearing a face mask. We have QR codes all over the place, and we encourage people to sign in.”

Kloeg advised those customers to wrap up warmly.

Bhavesh Patel, assistant manager of the nearby Strada café, said the level change had come as a surprise, but they were well prepared.

“We have a QR code on each table, and we will put another one on the door. We also need to remove some tables and make sure social distancing is in place.”

Cafes in Carterton and Greytown were prepared for covid-19 Alert Level 2 well ahead of the 6pm shift last night.

About one hour after the 1pm government announcement of the shift, Carterton District Council compliance and advisory officer Lizzen Nobathu was already checking in on each business within the Carterton CBD.

Nobathu reminded businesses that as part of the Wellington region, Carterton would be under Alert Level 2 regulations from 6pm on Wednesday until 11.59pm on Sunday.

“I’m reminding them while they’re operating to stick to some basic public health rules,” Nobathu said.

Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe in Carterton was preparing for the alert level change on Wednesday afternoon. The cafe had kept its Perspex screens handy since the last time Wairarapa was in Alert Level 2 in March.

“With the bubbles opening, we were definitely waiting for the covid to hit,” manager Jahlisa Namana said. “It just happened to hit in Wellington.”

Namana said staff would put the screens back on their counters to provide a protective barrier between staff and customers.

“Other than that, everything is still in order from last time.”

Namana was grateful that the shift was only to Level 2 at this stage. Level 3 would mean the cafe could only operate as a hole-in-the-wall.

At Level 2, cafe customers had to be seated, separated from other groups by at least one metre, and have a single server, where practical.

Namana said these ‘three Ss’ made working in hospitality more difficult. However, she said Wild Oats had enough staff to ensure the rules were upheld.

“It’s not as hard as it was the first time – that’s for sure. We know the rules, the regulations around things, and we just put everything into place the moment that things happen.”

The Offering cafe in Greytown would operate at Level 2 by splitting the cafe into four areas, each with a single server.

Owner Bevan Morland said the alert level change would cost his business an extra $2000 a week in wages.

He said the changes could be challenging to manage because The Offering was not usually set up for table service, and the advice on the government’s covid-19 website was ambiguous.

The advice stated that each group at a cafe or restaurant should have only one server, where practical.

Events take a hit

Marilyn Bouzaid, director of the upcoming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang show, was ‘devastated’ to postpone its opening night last night.

“We were ready to go and hope people will be able to reschedule. We hope next week is the start of a superb season.”

The opening night of the show have been postponed until July 8.

Other events that have been called off include a show by the Jordan Luck Band at the Copthorne Hotel and a charity quiz at Featherston’s Garrison Cafe and Bar.

Destination Wairarapa’s general manager Anna Nielson said the level change was “a blow for everyone in the tourism and hospitality sector”.

“We have been in this position before, and everyone knows what is required. There are some key events next month.

“These events are organised by professionals who are very experienced and know what needs to be done.”

Wedding celebrant Holly Hullena said she had a few weddings planned in the coming weeks, though none within the Level 2 timeframe.

“It’s different for everyone. I have one couple that would reschedule because they’ve got family coming from overseas.

“I have another that wants something pretty low-key anyway, so they’d be okay with reducing the numbers and having a bigger reception on an anniversary or something.”

Hullena had changed her practice due to the pandemic last year – she now discussed possible level changes with her clients during the initial consultation stage.

Event organiser Catherine Rossiter-Stead agreed that taking potential lockdowns into account had become par the course.

“It’s now routine,” she said.

Rossiter-Stead had put on the Remarkable Women awards held last weekend and said she felt lucky the event had been able to go ahead as planned.

“We did have a contingency plan, we had a postponement date, but obviously we were lucky.”

– Reporting by Local Democracy reporter Marcus Anselm, Soumya Bhamidipati, Sue Teodoro, and Tom Taylor.

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