Elderly residents at council-owned flats are getting extra care as part of Auckland Council's response to the Covid-19 virus, with 28 confirmed cases across the country.
Auckland councillors received an update by officers on measures to address the virus at this morning's finance committee, with several expressing concern for the elderly and the mental wellbeing of Aucklanders.
This followed a briefing on the council's finances, which councillor Shane Henderson said are solid and in a good space for council to make prudent, but hard decisions to protect the city's communities and to recover.
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"We are backing our approach but we have to be ready to move with the times," said Mayor Phil Goff who yesterday told the Herald the virus could reduce council revenue by $100 million or more.
Starting immediately, Goff said, finance committee meetings will double in frequency, ensuring councillors can effectively represent the views of their communities in making critical decisions around expenditure during these extraordinary times.
Finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson said efficiency gains from council's Value for Money programme "mean we are in a good position to absorb financial pressure, but there is no doubt that as a city we will face some difficult decisions in coming months.
"Our finance team is working around the clock to prepare for all scenarios, and councillors are working closely with officials to ensure the resilience of our essential services," she said.
Ian Maxwell, council's director of executive programmes, said as well as the cancellation of many council events, fewer people are attending swimming pools, council gyms and libraries. Consenting activity was slowing and supply issues were starting to affect the building industry, he said.
There are now 55 council staff in isolation, up from 50 yesterday. Plans are in place for 6000 council staff to work from home, with the ability for 10,000 staff to work remotely.
"We just don't know the impact. We know it is happening on the edge. We can see it. We just don't know the extent of it," Maxwell said.
To concerns from councillor Josephine Bartley and others about the impact on the elderly, Maxwell said care is being stepped up for the elderly in council care.
He said mental health was an issue for the Ministry of Health, which council was looking to as the lead agency on health issues.
Councillor Richard Hills said mental health was going to be and is already a very difficult issue for many council staff who may not be used to pressure.
"I want us to keep putting that collective hug, but not a physical hug, around each other and just acknowledge when we are feeling stressed or whatever, just sit back for five minutes," said Hills.