Medical centres, like this one in Masterton, remain open, but patients should call in advance. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
The ups and the downs of lockdown
Wairarapa residents have been urged to contact their doctor as usual if they feel unwell.
The area’s medical centres are not seeing the number of people they expected to during the covid-19 pandemic, Dr Tony Becker, Wairarapa’s general practitioner lead for the covid-19 primary care response, said.
Although people are advised to stay at home, it is important they do see a doctor if they are sick, he said.
“If you are feeling unwell, we are still open – just ring first, we want to hear from you.
“With the lockdown now on, people are trying to help their communities to beat the disease.
“Things have gone really quiet, and what we’re worried about is if there are people out there who have things we normally would be dealing with and they’re all sitting at home thinking ‘I can’t go into the medical centre’.”
Becker said all Wairarapa medical centres are open.
He also wanted anyone showing covid-19 symptoms to get in touch immediately.
“In case anyone has coronavirus, we want to find them. We want those people to contact us.”
No addition to tally
There had been no addition to Wairarapa’s tally of five confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 in the 24 hours to 9.30am Saturday.
The family member of one Wairarapa resident with a confirmed case of covid-19 said he only had a “mild case” and was recovering
The Times-Age agreed not to identify the family as they said they had been surprised by how people had reacted and had experienced some backlash.
They said the Ministry of Health had been “absolutely brilliant” since the tests results had been confirmed on Tuesday.
“I think [the government] is doing a phenomenal job and [the lockdown] will have a great result.”
Home in nick of time
A Masterton woman who arrived home from overseas on Thursday, just before the New Zealand government shut the country off to all non-emergency travellers, said it felt “fantastic” to touch down in Auckland.
She then drove from Auckland to Wairarapa, via Rotorua where she dropped off her sister.
The woman did not want to disclose the country she had visited but said, she and her sister slept rough at the airport and were “joyous” when they saw Air New Zealand’s koru on the plane ready to take them home.
“There were hundreds of us on the way over to our holiday and only 25 of us on a 747 on the way back,” she said. “We had great service and it was good to have two bloody marys not just
Being in the ‘at risk’ age group she said it was good to be home, but was sad to say goodbye to her sister.
“I knew that was our last hug for at least a month. She lives with others but there’s just me at home now so the reality of that hit me.”
On Thursday, March 19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut the border to non-citizens and non-permanent residents. New Zealanders still overseas have since been told to stay where they are. Domestic travel was shut down at midnight Friday night.
‘Please, stay at home’
A Martinborough farmworker is urging all non-essential traffic – including cyclists – to stay clear of rural areas while New Zealand is in lockdown.
Graham Higginson has erected signs along the sides of roads in rural Martinborough saying, “No access to non-essential travel – turn around”.
He said he knew of a case of covid-19 in Martinborough and wanted to see people practise self-isolation and lockdown better.
“What we do not want to see is it getting spread through the rural community.
“Rural people have a huge responsibility on their hands in regards to looking after stock.
“We’re already going through a huge drought at the moment, and we don’t need to have farmers and farmworkers getting sick with anything.”
He said the farm he worked at had its own health and safety policy and a contingency plan in place, should any workers get sick.
“We’re doing all we can on the farm, this is really serious stuff – it’s not the common flu.
“People have been told to stay at home.
“Please, stay at home.”
Pickers in lockdown bubble
Twelve berry pickers will be camping out for the next four weeks at Masterton’s Wee Red Barn as they work to keep supermarkets in the lower North Island stocked with fresh produce.
Owner Dot Bisset said the 12 casual workers, her immediate family, and a family stranded from the UK had formed their own lockdown bubble on the Opaki farm.
The casual workers, many of whom are foreign are living in a campsite on the property and went into isolation on Sunday.
“The campsite is literally in lockdown,” Bisset said. “All of our workers are in our own bubble – they are isolated on the farm and are isolated apart from each other.
“The gates are locked – we’ve discussed it with the workers and they’re happy.”
She dubbed the pickers her “extended family” through lockdown.
Bisset said it was a stressful time to be a businessowner, but “there’s a lot of people out there doing it tougher than us”.
A one-customer limit is in place at the store, and people must use hand sanitiser upon entering.
There is also a screen up at the counter to avoid transmission of covid-19 between staff and customers.
Over the past week, Bisset said there had been an influx of people asking if there was any work available at Wee Red Barn – both locals and backpackers passing through.
“We have turned away a lot of people looking for work,” Bisset said.
“I didn’t employ locals because they would be coming back and forth from the farm each day and that would have been a risk in itself.”
She was worried by the number of backpackers who had “nowhere to camp and nowhere to go” since the nation was put into lockdown.
“Campsites are shut down, DOC sites are shut down, and motels aren’t taking you in unless you are an essential worker.
“I don’t know where they are hiding out, but there’s definitely difficult times ahead for them.”
Wee Red Barn was also continuing to sell baleage to Wairarapa farmers who were facing drought hardship.
Butchers at loose end
Butchers have been juggling supplies of fresh meat and poultry after the lockdown.
Greytown’s Big Apple butcher Sam Hunter said before the lockdown, orders from Greytown cafes and restaurants had been made and the meat had been delivered to him for the coming week.
“I had a thousand dollars of fresh poultry here and suddenly it wasn’t needed,” Hunter said. “I had to get it sold. I have just about managed, but it has been a big effort.”
Initially covid-19 rules around fruit and vegetable suppliers and butchers was that they could stay open, but they have had to close.
Big Apple and the Greytown Butcher supply meat to the community along with FreshChoice.
But FreshChoice is the only Greytown meat supplier now.
Hunter expects customer demand for meat will be too much for one supplier and this means Greytown customers will drive out of the area to get the meat and said, “this is not ideal”.
“When you take suppliers out of the area, particularly butchers – and there are only a few of us – it just doesn’t add up,” Hunter said.
“One team of butchers is unlikely to keep up.”
He is one of two licensed home kill butchers in Wairarapa registered with the Ministry for Primary Industries and this demand is getting tricky too, he said.
“The drought has led to more animals being killed than expected as there is not enough food, so it has been a busy time.
“With the cafes and restaurants suddenly closed, the food scraps supply for pigs, for example, was very suddenly cut off.
“Some farmers are killing their pigs as they just don’t have the food for them.”
Hunter said the covid-19 impact on the flow of food around the region between growers, small scale farmers, cafes and restaurants was very significant.
The toilets at Carterton’s The Cliff’s free campsite have been padlocked.
Campgrounds around the region are not open to the public but Carterton Holiday Park is on standby should the health ministry require emergency accommodation for people during the flu epidemic.
The one-night closure of Remutaka Hill road for maintenance, scheduled for Sunday, April 5, has been cancelled after further consideration of Covid-19 guidelines.
Chalking up positivity
Masterton youngster Rylee Williams celebrated her 10th birthday in lockdown on Thursday by writing positive messages on the footpath outside her house on High St.
Her mum Stacey, who was helping to chalk the footpath said it was a fun and positive activity they could do to bring a smile to people’s faces as they walked or drove past.
The messages included: “Be happy”, “You look great today”, and “Enjoy life”.