An Ōpōtiki couple who failed to self-isolate when they returned from holiday has led to the closure of the town's library and i-Site.
Ōpōtiki District Council corporate services manager Muriel Chamberlain told the Eastern Bay Joint Committee on Tuesday library and i-Site staff were worried about how they could remain healthy following the couple's visit.
Chamberlain said the two "ran their hands over everything" and staff felt, if that was the attitude of the public, there was no way they could adequately protect themselves from the virus without shutting shop.
Council's chief executive Aileen Lawrie said in a statement the decision wasn't taken lightly but reducing the spread of Covid-19 and protecting vulnerable members of the community had to come first.
"For the Ōpōtiki i–Site in particular, most customers are from overseas and we couldn't take the risk for our staff and other customers that visitors were adhering to the Government's requirement for them to self-isolate for 14 days," Lawrie said.
"We added to this the consideration that it is the end of our peak summer season, so numbers have dropped right away. Staff have just completed a very heavy events season as well, so we have brought forward some downtime we are likely to have planned anyway.
"Our library is very popular and busy, particularly with many community members who fall into the highest risk categories and would suffer the worst effects of the virus. Social distancing would be impractical to implement in either location."
Staff in the i-Site and the library can be contacted through phone or email during business hours and the council has waived any fines and extended loan times.
Lawrie said she expected the renting of ebooks and audiobooks would grow in popularity.
"The most important thing at this stage is for the community to continue to follow the advice of our health professionals – washing hands, staying home if unwell and social distancing.
"We are committed to keeping staff and the community safe and we'll continue to keep a close eye on the situation and adjust our approach as needed."
The Kawerau i-Site has also stopped issuing permits to Tarawera Forest, Tarawera Outlet and Putauaki Forest in person. All permits must be obtained online.
Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer told the committee she had heard the entire Te Whānau-ā-Apanui iwi were considering self-isolating.
Riesterer asked the other committee members how seriously they would like to take the self-isolation and whether they should conduct their next meeting online.
The council will also be carrying out a test of staff working from home.
Whakatāne District Council chief executive Stephanie O'Sullivan said her council had also road-tested working from home, how to continue some essential services in a safe way, which services to shut down and had been reviewing its business continuity plan.
Staff were also given "corona kits" including anti-bacterial spray and hand sanitiser.
Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner said she had reminded councillors to be "consistently on message" when speaking to the public about coronavirus.
She said it was important to remind people to take it more seriously.
"I've asked my councillors to keep up to date with the latest messaging from the Ministry of Health."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chief executive Fiona McTavish said her team had successfully road-tested working from home, had banned work-related overseas travel for regional council staff, had isolated some staff, had cancelled some large public meetings and would not be consulting on the Long-term Plan face-to-face.
She said the council was also considering reducing the quorum required to make decisions and was looking at allowing councillors to attend meetings via video call.
Kawerau District Council chief executive Russell George said his council had been reviewing pandemic and business continuity plans and was considering holding its council meetings in a bigger venue so there could be more space between people attending.
"We've told people, if they're sick, do not come in."
All Eastern Bay councils have been providing staff with updated and regular health advice, have increased cleaning regimens, especially for public areas, and have a registrar for all employees who are going overseas.
At this stage there is no reopening date set for the Ōpōtiki library or i-Site, nor for the Kawerau i-Site to issue permits in person.