Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
It's 3am Saturday morning and, as I usually do if I randomly get up in the night, I flick on my phone and skim-read the global news.
It's an ugly picture out there. The Covid pandemic is surging across Europe, United States and parts of Asia.
Imagine figures like the 20,000 per day in France, and what about the most advanced and most powerful nation in the world, the Disunited States of America. There it's surging around 180,000 per day swelling the total number infected to over 12m. More than 250,000 have died and another 80,000 are fighting for their lives in hospitals.
Compare that to New Zealand where, at the time of writing, the total since the first infected case sits just below 2000. Our total death toll is 25. Current infected cases number 42 with 35 of these registered and quarantined at the border.
Here in New Zealand Aotearoa it's easy to get complacent as we wind back to a sense of 'normality'. Mass gatherings and social occasions are beginning to return.
Last Thursday and Friday I had Local Government NZ meetings in Wellington. Also on that Friday evening Raumati Beach had their street fair. Saturday morning we had the Strawberry Festival in aid of Mary Potter Hospice and a Concert at Ōtaki. Sunday was the Waikanae Indoor Market and a Filipino Church function. These are only the items on my diary.
All of us would know a myriad of other things happening in our communities where you had a choice to visit.
But all it takes is one breach at our border for the invisible virus to etherise into our communities. Something like that Defence Force member who travelled by plane from Auckland to Wellington not knowing he was infected.
Accompanying passengers, having landed in Wellington, could have dispersed across the greater Wellington region including to Kāpiti. They could all have been carriers. One of them could have sat next to me at Coastlands having lunch. You never know.
That early Saturday morning as I read the global news about the surging pandemic I reminded myself that if we think we live in a safe bubble in New Zealand, we are not. And, while it may be comforting to feel so, that thinking is not only a luxury we can't afford but it's also statistically wrong.
There is a probability that there could be a surge in New Zealand despite our, so far, excellent track record in managing it. We have to continue to be diligent.
The advice is to myself too. Last week, my tracking app malfunctioned and while I had been intending to sort that, the hamster-in-the-wheel busyness seemed to have pushed that priority aside.
And what's happened to our commitment to keeping our social isolation protocols? And the frequent hand washing? And, of course, Christmas is coming and this is where our prevention protocol standards are bound to slip majorly.
What we really don't need is for any break out of community infections happening during this Christmas and summer holiday period. This will be a demoralising setback. Given the very difficult and challenging year we have had I'm sure I speak for all of us in hoping we get a decent break with family and friends.
On Sunday, I attended the Grace Fellowship Service at Paraparumu's Impact Church. The service caters for our Filipino community. Many of them work as nurses, medical workers and caregivers looking after our vulnerable senior citizens living in our retirement villages.
During the lockdown these workers were at the coal face of the danger zone. A potential danger zone not only for the seniors living in the retirement homes but also for these workers putting themselves in potential danger.
In thanking them, I reminded them that they should wear the badge defining them as "Essential Workers" as an honourable service to the community.
In fact, back in 2013 on Race Relations Day I helped the Filipino community organise an event celebrating the contribution of migrant workers to mainstream New Zealand and its economy. The then mayor Jenny Rowan and Her Excellency the Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand, Virginia Bernividez, presented certificates of appreciation to our Filipino workers.
The event was attended by representatives of Kapiti Grey Power, Age Concern and the Older Persons Council. All our essential workers continue to remain our essential workers. Thank you for the work you continue to do.