Northern communities were caught by surprise last week when the Government declared that the Auckland region was in lockdown Level 3. Checkpoints on the Auckland-Northland regional boundary had sprung up by midday on Wednesday, August 12, and queues up to 10 kilometres long formed as drivers scrambled to cross the divide. Police in medical masks questioned drivers about the purpose of their journey at a checkpoint north of Te Hana.
The news that Auckland was moving back into a Level 3 lockdown at midday last Wednesday was greeted with disappointment, but mostly resignation in Mahurangi.
Few, at that stage, thought the lockdown would last only three days and many thought that it was inevitable that there would be a second wave sooner or later.
Supermarkets were the first to feel the effects of the lockdown, with social distancing and hygiene rules back in place when the doors opened on Wednesday morning.
Rest homes also responded quickly, cancelling residents’ activities and closing their doors to visitors.
The weekly Mahu Community Trading Post sale was also cancelled.
Checkpoints were set-up on nine roads on Auckland’s northern and southern boundaries, with Police saying that their first focus was on ensuring that people were aware of the new restrictions.
Long lines of traffic heading north formed early in the day and at the checkpoint at Te Hana, people were being turned around if their journeys did not meet the new criteria for crossing the Auckland/Northland border.
Schools closed with little fuss, although a few students did turn up unaware of the lockdown. One
Warkworth father thought Rodney was part of Northland and, therefore, not part of the lockdown.
Construction work and work on major projects such as the Matakana link road and Puhoi to Warkworth motorway continued with protocols in place.
Dentists offered emergency care only and doctors reverted to phone consultations where possible, but surgeries went ahead as planned at the Rodney Surgical Centre.
Centre chief executive officer Marianne Davidson-Beker said the centre was already working through a backlog as a result of the first lockdown and did not want to cause patients further delays.
“We have good systems in place to keep staff and patients safe, as well as sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE),” she said. “Even small delays can be life-threatening for some patients.”
More generally, Ms Davidson-Beker said she was concerned about the impact the lockdown would have on small businesses.
“We’re really talking about the debate between health versus the economy,” she says. “The northern part of Auckland should not have been included in this lockdown. They should have put the police and army at the Harbour Bridge and allowed us to continue to function.
“The Government has to have some trust that we can make good decisions for ourselves and our community to keep everyone safe.”
Ms Davidson-Beker said the question now was whether the Government would extend the wage subsidy so small businesses could remain viable.
Matt Henderson, of Warkworth Menswear, was thinking along the same lines. He said that although he was not surprised by the news, he was worried about the future because the subsidies were gone.
Some comments from around Warkworth:
Colin Stables, from The Camera Shop Warkworth: “I don’t feel like doing this again, but financially I’m not going to worry; life is more important.”
Sally Peters, from Mr Grind: “I’ll remain open during Level 3. Although it’s not ideal, I’m trying not to buy into the fear.”
Let It Brew, Mitzi Isla: “I have mixed emotions. In a way I expected it because the virus was not gone; it was just a matter of time.”