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by Helen Holt

South Cantabrians are experiencing deja vu after New Zealand was abruptly put into an Alert Level 4 lockdown last week.

The Government announced on Tuesday last week the entire country would go into Level 4 lockdown after a case of Covid-19 was detected in Auckland which was confirmed as the Delta variant of the virus.

The lockdown was extended on Monday for most of New Zealand for an extra four days, until 11.59pm on Friday, while Auckland will remain at Level 4 until at least 11.59pm next Tuesday.

In South Canterbury, businesses closed their doors and residents stayed home in their “bubbles”, unless venturing out to access essential services such as supermarkets or health care.

Last Tuesday evening’s announcement resulted in a rush to buy supplies at local supermarkets, shelves rapidly emptying of some essential items.

Empty shelves . . .
Shoppers rushed to supermarkets after the lockdown announcement
on Tuesday night, with toilet paper once again proving a popular purchase. PHOTO: ALYSSA HAREN

Local supermarket owners said they could not comment, but Foodstuffs South Island said almost all shoppers were supportive of mandatory face coverings.

Chief executive officer Steve Anderson said the company welcomed the rule to keep everyone safe.

“We have seen good compliance since this measure was introduced and think this is great advice for New Zealanders, who have already increased their mask-wearing habits significantly.

Wait in line . . . Masked shoppers at the Countdown supermarket on Browne St queuing in the car park on Friday.

Countdown said masks were a condition of entry to all its stores, and provided an extra layer of safety for staff and customers.

If customers became aggressive and refused to wear a mask, the advice from police was that supermarket team members should not enforce this as it was simply too dangerous.

“We have definitely seen some customers refusing masks and we’d continue to ask people to respect our team, treat them with kindness and wear a mask or face covering as is mandatory as directed by the Government.”

Police have been visiting premises and driving through the streets to check people are compliant with the rules. Police are required to wear masks at all times when on duty.

Aoraki area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said people had been very compliant.

“I’d say 99% know exactly what’s expected of them and are following the rules. It’s been relatively quiet, and people are doing everything they’ve been asked.”

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) Mid South Canterbury is warning people not to burn rubbish or farm waste during Alert Level 4.

Mid South Canterbury area commander Steven Greenyer said Fenz received callouts last weekend.

“People see smoke and call us up. Quite often our volunteer firefighters are the ones called to put them out, which means leaving their bubbles.”

People needed to be aware of fire safety while at home.

“We won’t get call outs from businesses because everyone is at home, but fires still happen,” Mr Greenyer said.

The Timaru and Washdyke stations were being maintained as separate bubbles and were using PPE [personal protective equipment] on callouts where possible. Volunteer firefighter training had been paused during Alert Level 4, but brigades would continue to respond to callouts.

St John is continuing its ambulance services throughout South Canterbury.

Deputy chief executive Dan Ohs said St John had changed its processes to reduce the chances of transmission of the virus.

“When calling 111 for an ambulance, St John asks the public to inform the emergency call handler if the patient, or anyone else at the address, is in self-isolation or has been exposed to a person who may have Covid-19.

“This will help our ambulance crews make the best decisions about infectious disease precautions.

” Our ambulance officers are routinely wearing Ministry of Health-recommended PPE such as masks and gloves when attending all patients and changing these between patients. We are confident we have sufficient stock of PPE for the predicted demand.

“Contaminated surfaces and equipment are cleaned or safely disposed of in biohazard bags. St John ambulance officers have been instructed to reinstate droplet barriers in emergency ambulances and have been directed to only transport family members with patients in exceptional circumstances, in order to keep families and health workers safe.”