I have heard from many people how much harder this latest lockdown has been, not only for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau, but for people right across Aotearoa.
Every day, we at Healthline listen to Kiwis from Kaitāia to Bluff about the anxiety, pain and difficulties they are dealing with. They call us for information, health advice and for specific mental health and family violence services. Since the beginning of this latest outbreak on August 18, we've engaged with 400,000 contacts on the Covid Vaccination Healthline alone. That's more than the population of Christchurch – and averages out at 11,000 calls a day.
We have heard from more people than ever before in the past month. In fact, the three biggest days in the 20-year history of Healthline occurred during August.
Often, there are no quick or specific remedies. But our 3000 team members have been on the end of the phone, offering a place of solace, information, and connections to medical advice or, in the case of Covid vaccination, to a vaccination booking.
As a leader of an essential business, headquartered in Auckland, I see and feel the impacts. The pressures of balancing the needs of whānau; lack of access to family and friends; working, schooling and childcare from home; and the prospect of continued – but necessary – restrictions on our daily lives.
In 2021, the novelty around alert levels is waning and there are growing economic, social and mental health costs as we continue our fight against the Delta variant.
I continue to be a "glass very full" kind of person. Over the past few weeks I encouraged our team to "live your level like never before". Wherever you live in the country and whatever level you are under, make sure you make the most of the positives associated with that level. Because, I hope, we will not need to come back here again.
Just as occurred in Australia, this Delta outbreak has put focus on the importance of the Covid vaccine. Record numbers have contacted our vaccination Healthline, booked online and shown up for jabs. It has been astonishing to see the ramp-up in demand and the way New Zealand's health system responded. Frontline nurses, doctors and healthcare workers alongside many other support roles across Aotearoa have enabled this unprecedented, record-setting vaccine roll-out.
But the jabs – and the job – is not yet done. We know, from the people calling, there is vaccine "curiosity" and some hesitancy. By curiosity I mean a person who has a legitimate question or concern. If you or one of your family or friends is in that space – please call the Covid Vaccination Healthline. We can answer those niggly questions that may be holding you back from vaccination. And we're here 24/7.
As part of our work, we contact people who are in self-isolation because they have tested positive for Covid or have been identified as a contact of those people. There is a notable difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and those who are not – vaccinated people are much less anxious and stressed than those who have not yet taken the opportunity to get a jab.
Kiwi nurse Jenny McGee, who famously cared for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he had Covid, said (NZ Herald, September 29) people who contract Covid often say they are ready for the vaccine, only to be told it's too late.
"When people are pleading for the vaccine at that point, it's far too late, there's nothing a vaccine would do for them. They're horribly sick with Covid and there's a lot of regret there."
It also means their loved ones can't be with them. These are some of the types of opportunities that the unvaccinated may start to miss.
I am regularly asked what help we might need and what can we all do to eradicate Covid and re-engage with each other and the rest of world. The answer is always the same – encourage everyone you know – everyone - to get vaccinated.
It is incumbent on all of us to engage our whānau and, especially, our tamariki. Steer them towards trusted information sources about Covid and vaccination, and encourage and support them to get that jab.
It is the only pathway back from this lockdown and into the new normal that will emerge beyond 2021.
The silver lining is that there is a silver lining. We can keep Covid at bay. Together we can end this pandemic, and we can all start enjoying a full life again. So let's crack on.
• Andrew Slater is the CEO of Whakarongorau Aotearoa, the social enterprise that operates Healthline, the Covid Healthline, Covid Vaccination Healthline and a range of other 24x7 free to the public, virtual health, mental health, and social services.