COMMENT:

I've been thinking. What would happen if I needed to self-isolate for two weeks? What sorts of supplies would I need to have in my home?

As I wash my hands with soap for the recommended 20 seconds (which feels like a very long time while you're doing it), and dry them well, I also think about the effect self-isolation could have on farming and horticulture communities. Who would manage their affairs, bring in supplies, how could they get stock to sales and produce to market? As hard as my own isolation would be, I imagine it would be infinitely harder for those with stock and produce concerns.

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There are many among us who are already feeling the impact of Covid-19. The forestry and logging industry has been severely affected, retailers are awaiting supplies from overseas markets, the travel industry is cutting back wherever it can, and our education sector is feeling the loss of our international student flow. This is the reality of living in an island nation while the world grapples with a significant health alert.

I've been speaking with our chief executive here at the council, about our own preparedness with council employees, and our district as a whole. We've been monitoring Covid-19 from the outset, liaising with the Northland District Health Board and Northland Civil Defence to ensure we're all on the same page. We're all taking our lead from the Ministry of Health, which is what we're advising everyone in our district to do as well. Their website (health.govt.nz) is ideal – they've set up a dedicated section for Covid-19 in 18 languages, giving latest updates, health advice, industry-specific guidelines, media releases and facts about the virus.

Internally, we've been working hard to ensure our Business Continuation Plan is robust and practical. Should we be given instructions from Ministry of Health that our organisation is to temporarily shut its doors to inhibit the spread of Covid-19, we are in a position to maintain services to our district with minimal disruption. That means water will still flow, rubbish will still be collected, and yes, roadworks will continue!

For the time being, I'm personally checking with people I greet whether they want to shake hands, hongi or hug, and I've drawn a target on the inside of my elbow if I feel the need to sneeze or cough.

Many people are concerned about large gatherings and events taking place. While I understand the concern, we are taking our lead from the Ministry of Health and we are ready to react immediately should that time come.

Kiwis are famous for our ingenuity, down-to-earth attitude and common sense. Now is the time to bring those qualities to the forefront: have a plan, be prepared, and most of all - be practical. Get your flu shots and boost your immune system for the winter months, let's care for each other by maintaining high levels of personal hygiene, and keep those winter bugs at bay.

Ngā mihi, stay safe and healthy Whangārei.

Kia noho haumaru me te ora Whangārei.

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