Here is a look at how the region is coping with another Alert Level 4 Covid-19 lockdown …
The announcement that New Zealand would head into Level 4 Lockdown on August 17 gave Mahurangi a sharp reminder that although there had been no community transmission for months, Covid-19 remained an ever-present threat.
The community quickly learned that anything non-essential, including Auckland Council services, would close and strict new rules would apply for visiting places such as a supermarket. Shoppers were told to wear a mask, reminded of physical distancing measures and told to limit purchases of high demand items such as toilet paper, rice, pasta and baby formula.
Police promised they would take action on those who failed to wear a mask and although they vowed an “education-first” approach, they did warn of infringement notices, arrests and court action for repeated refusal to comply. Hundreds made use of an online reporting service to dob in those failing to observe the rules.
An early warning that Covid was in striking distance of Mahurangi came on August 19 when the Ministry of Health identified Albany Westfield Mall – a popular shopping spot for locals – as a location of interest.
Those who had visited earlier on August 13 were told to self-isolate and call Healthline.
With complacency well and truly gone, Mahurangi medical centres reported a massive upsurge in people seeking testing for Covid-19.
Around 100 people a day began seeking testing at Kawau Bay Health, up from about 30 a day before the current lockdown.
Fortunately, centres coped with the upsurge in demand since most other consultations were now being conducted by phone, rather than face-to-face, freeing up staff to be redirected to the Covid response.
Despite the constrained conditions, Mahurangi residents, businesses and local government showed a remarkable ability to adapt.
The Rodney Local Board conducted its monthly business meeting via Skype and many stores that were forced to close
during the last lockdown revealed they had online ordering and contactless delivery systems in place.
With none of its regular custom from restaurants, Warkworth Butchery put together a new range of mixed meat boxes and delivered everywhere between Wellsford and Orewa. Matakana Village Butchery, Mangawhai Meats in Maungauroto also offered online ordering and delivery, reaching remote spots such as Kawau Island and Pahi respectively.
Meanwhile, fruit and veggie producer Warkworth Christian Foodlink appealed for food to help people struggling during lockdown.
Police promised action against those failing to comply with lockdown rules. Mangawhai Grown said it could continue lockdown deliveries even across border checkpoints should they be put in place, as its drivers had exemptions.
For those needing a drink, most liquor stores were able to offer online ordering, though with strict ID requirements.
Mahurangi schools also were well prepared with most seamlessly transitioning to online learning, but there were concerns for students with upcoming exams and rural students without internet.
Mahurangi College principal Tony Giles’ message to students was to try to maintain their routine as much as possible.
“That means keeping up with online lessons but also staying in contact with classmates and maintaining classroom culture,” he said.
Tomarata School principal Cherylene Neels expressed hope that the Ministry of Education would be forthcoming with supplying “hard packs” for children lacking digital devices and online connections. Meanwhile, teaching staff called school families, checking how they were and seeing if they needed additional support.
That caring approach was further in evidence when Warkworth Lions and Mahu Vollies reprised their ‘assisted shopping service’ from last lockdown at Warkworth New World. Senior citizens, the immune compromised and those juggling child care responsibilities were invited to come to New World and have their shopping done for them by a volunteer while they waited safely in their cars. As it turned out, there was little demand for the service during its first run on August 24.
Lions spokesperson Peter Henderson suspected the requirement to wear masks and the fact that many senior citizens were now vaccinated had given shoppers more confidence to shop for themselves.
But lest there was any lack of confidence further north, Wellsford Lions offered another shopping service, whereby people could call Four Square Wellsford (The Top Shop) and have a volunteer call them back, take their order and deliver essential supplies.
Warkworth made national news following the announcement on August 21 that Covid had been detected in its wastewater. It prompted around 400 people to get tested over the weekend at a pop-up testing centre run by Coast to Coast health in Morrison Drive.
Initially, there were no reports of anyone returning a positive test and there was speculation that perhaps the initial wastewater was related to someone passing through Warkworth rather than a resident.
However, on Wednesday August 25 Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the first positive case of Covid-19 had been identified in Warkworth during the current lockdown.