Auckland pharmacists are terrified after a man with a mask walked into a store, grabbed cash from a till and ran off.
"My staff were so scared. It felt like a slap in the face. We are staying open to help our community, risking our lives, and then this happens," Krishneal Rambisheswar, owner of Unichem Coxs Pharmacy in Glen Innes, told the Herald.
Fifty-eight new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand were announced yesterday, bringing the total number to 647 since the start of the pandemic.
Police said they were called to a shoplifting incident at the Glen Innes pharmacy on Mayfair Place on Saturday, March 28, around 7.30pm.
A police spokesman said a male dressed in dark clothing entered the pharmacy when a staff member was distracted and, during this time, the offender took a quantity of cash from the till.
"The offender has then fled and run across the road, where he has met an associate and left the area."
Rambisheswar said: "The guy reached across our two-metre barrier, grabbed the till and ran off. He had an accomplice waiting in a red car that was used as a getaway vehicle."
He said luckily no one was hurt and no weapons were involved.
The pharmacist and his team are calling for increased police security and support around vulnerable pharmacies during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
"We just want to be able to work in a safe and secure environment - both for the public and staff."
The support they were calling for from police and district health boards included:
• Advice on security and safety and ensuring consistency between pharmacies.
• Identifying the most vulnerable pharmacies so they could be flagged for priority police response.
• Ensure information and resources if necessary and ensure prompt response to any issues that arise.
• Regular police presence around pharmacies, and/or a security guard on site.
The police spokesman said police were making a number of inquiries into this report and asked anyone with information to contact them on 105 and quote the file number 200328/4449.
Information can also be provided anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
"Police are maintaining a highly visible presence in communities across the country and conducting regular reassurance patrols as the safety of the community is our priority.
"Anyone who sees any suspicious behaviour or is concerned for their safety is encouraged to call police," a spokesman said.
Rambisheswar said the pandemic had accelerated very quickly and it felt like they had not received any support from the Ministry of Health.
"Staff are scared of contracting Covid-19. The politicians are busy saying that all essential health workers had been provided personal protective equipment (PPE), well we have not seen any.
"The safety of our staff has been our primary concern so we have front-footed, sourcing our own PPE gear for staff."
Earlier this week the Herald told a story about Auckland pharmacist Esther Butt who said she was working in fear and had opened up about getting verbally abused every day she worked on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19.
"I have cried so many times ... the volume of scripts is uncontrollable and we are drowning in work. The phone won't stop ringing and people abuse us daily," Butt told the Herald.
"One lady who was getting medication for her husband yelled at me: 'I'm putting my life at risk coming here, hurry up' and that really hurt because my life's at risk every day and I am trying my best to help everybody."
Director-general of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday that all healthcare workers could be assured there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) available and the Health Ministry was working hard to make sure all workers had access to it.
"We are now working to get PPE out to frontline workers who wouldn't normally need it, for example, home support workers, pharmacies, aged residential care."
When asked by media why these frontline workers had not received PPE earlier, Bloomfield said: "It has been happening already but we want to make sure there is a clear national strategy so if a worker doesn't have enough and needs more, there's an easy way to get more."
The message Rambisheswar wanted to share with New Zealanders was: "She'll be right mate ... well she won't be right unless we take this thing seriously.
"Soon everyone will know someone who has been infected with Covid-19 or, in a worse case, has died from Covid-19. My message is simply isolate and obey the ministry's guidelines on how to prevent the spread."