Businesses still operating have had to quickly reinvent themselves, none more so than Berrys Tararua Pharmacy and Berrys Health Centre Pharmacy in Levin.
Owners Neville Gimblett and Phil Berry saw the lockdown coming and as soon as level two was announced they knew there was little time left to organise.
"When alert level 2 was announced, we were advised by sources within a DHB that the country would almost immediately move to level 3 and 4.
"This led to a Sunday planning session where we recognised our privileged position to still be operating a business and resolved that medicine accessibility for the community would be the priority. An action plan was developed, the key point being to keep people at home and safe," said Gimblett.
Those first few days they were run off their feet with little to no time to even answer a phone as people frantically tried to stock up on prescription medication.
"At some stage one person did nothing but answer the phone."
To keep those over 70 at home it was obvious that a massive medicine delivery system would be necessary – greater than the regular staff could sustain. They decided it was time to call on community connections to assist.
HMC Levin came to the party with a vehicle, and with help from Speldhurst residents and volunteers for the last few weeks the two Berrys Pharmacies have had four cars, driven by volunteers, on the road every day – delivering within Levin every day and to the wider community from Foxton Beach, Shannon to Ōtaki at least once a week.
Drivers are reporting great responses from patients, even tears, at the prospect of getting much-needed medication delivered to their doors. Many take the time for a brief chat.
In addition the pharmacies have had a volunteer every day collating the deliveries to ensure the drivers follow a logical path through the community. It is a testament to this district that the values embraced by "small-town NZ" live on, enabling this to happen, said Gimblett.
Hinemoa House and Woodhaven Gardens team up
The two pharmacies operate independently from each other with no contact between the two, so that should one person fall ill and the pharmacy need to go into lockdown, the other one can still cope with the work.
One of the factors working against such a delivery system while keeping everyone safe, was how to get paid. Many elderly folk do not like to have debts, so insist on paying.
"At least one person came to the pharmacy this week on her mobility scooter to pay."
Philip and Neville decided from that Sunday meeting that they would send out the medicines and worry about payment later – "a brave move" as another pharmacy owner commented, but a recognition that local businesses have a responsibility to the community.
Service to their community and personal wellbeing of locals are more important than money right now, they say.
At this stage both owners feel vindicated in trusting the community as so many have paid through internet banking, while others, given the age of the community, have indicated they will be in later to pay, when the lock down is over.
"Regardless of business philosophy this strategy could not have been successful without the wonderful mix of volunteers, local businesses, and permanent staff who have stepped up to serve the community.
"These are your neighbours and your friends within the community who have put in the extra hours and hard work to help keep you safe. Along with the patience and understanding of the pharmacy customers, it is time to say thank you.
"Stay home, stay safe and let us all have a strong future."