by George Clark
South Canterbury begins a staggered introduction to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 from today.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the decision to drop to Level 2 was based on the advice of experts, who said an ongoing silent outbreak of the coronavirus was still possible throughout the country.
Today, retailers, cinemas, and sport and recreation centres will reopen.
On Monday, schools and early learning centres will reopen.
Finally, next Thursday, bars and the remainder of public places will reopen.
Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen said it would be great to see the district come back to life under Level 2 but it was important to remember that we all continued to live under restrictions.
“It is natural that after living under tight restrictions for the past few weeks people will be keen to be out and about, but we need to ensure that we do not give this virus the opportunity to gain a foothold in our community again, as a slide back to Level 3 or even 4 would be a disaster.”
Playgrounds and parks will reopen today and dogs are allowed off leash on Caroline Bay and other dog exercise areas. Some facilities such as barbecue areas remain closed.
Pools remain closed until Saturday to allow time to heat back up.
Geraldine and Temuka libraries and service centres will open from today, and the Timaru Library will offer a limited service. The Aigantighe Art Gallery will open today and South Canterbury Museum on Tuesday.
Transfer stations will open to the public for limited opening hours from Monday, May 18.
Contact tracing and number limits will apply to all council sites, metered parking and time limits apply as normal from Thursday.
“From a council perspective, our focus is now doing everything we can in collaboration with local business to help reignite the Timaru district economy and ensure that we can rebound stronger than ever from this crisis.”
Alert Level 2 allows a breaking of bubbles to resume hobbies and see friends, but police want you to know they will be watching.
South Canterbury Police will continue to be highly visible in the community and on roads to maintain public safety, security and order in Alert Level 2.
A police spokesperson said they had seen, by and large, a good level of compliance in Timaru during lockdown.
“In the wider Canterbury district, there have been 79 breaches of the Health Act, with 52 prosecutions, 24 warnings and three youth referrals. Many of the breach prosecutions are for other criminal behaviour, such as burglary, theft, or illicit drugs.”
Overall crime volumes have decreased significantly in lockdown with typical street disorder offences over a Friday or Saturday night not occurring.
“While there has not been a significant rise in the number of family harm incidents, this may not reflect the true situation as people may not have had the opportunity or felt safe enough to make a report.”
Police urge everyone to keep up the good work by staying local, maintaining social distance and making safe decisions.