The refrain has rung out in public health announcements and social media posts around the globe: "I stayed at work for you. You stay at home for us!" As New Zealand notched a week of Level 4 lockdown on Thursday, the frontline workers performing essential services continue to put themselves at the greatest risk of Covid-19 exposure out in public. While all responsible New Zealanders isolating at home may be becoming slightly claustrophobic by now, the below eight profiles of frontline Kiwis reveal sacrifices of a different kind. Among them are: parents and children who can no longer see each other in person, a health worker informing their family of their final wishes, and supermarket workers toiling through the night. Meet the Kiwis who cannot stay at home.

Simon Tattersfield, 49, Auckland

Owner medical logistics company installing ICU beds, ventilators

Simon Tattersfield is director of Insite Logistics a specialist medical and healthcare transport provider based in Auckland. NZ Herald Alex Burton
Simon Tattersfield is director of Insite Logistics a specialist medical and healthcare transport provider based in Auckland. NZ Herald Alex Burton

Every evening Simon Tattersfield's wife leaves a plate with his dinner on the top of the stairs of their home where his quarantine zone begins.

He still lives in the same Westmere house as his wife Karyn and their two children Ruby, 12, and Daniel, 10.

But they no longer see him in person under that roof. He has the bottom floor. They have the top.

Advertisement

Tattersfield is the owner of Auckland based medical supply company Insite Logistics, who deliver and service the sophisticated machinery all hospitals need to operate: ICU beds, respirators, MRI and ultrasound machines.

READ MORE:
Taradale grandmother plays pipes in recognition of frontline workers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Grey Lynn residents join in appreciation for frontline workers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Calls for frontline health workers to test patients themselves
Covid-19 coronavirus: Free pizza delivered to Rotorua's frontline workers

The 49-year-old is surprised by how emotional he suddenly got describing his strange new home situation, made all the more lonely by his unseen proximity to those he loves.

"It's not until now that I realised how emotional I feel about it all," he said.

"My wife's being positive but she's a lot more anxious. She's doing everything in her power and she's quarantined me.

"I've actually got this man cave made up which is quite sweet in some ways, or whatever you want to call it. I've got TV and beer fridge.

"I wave to them [his kids] and talk to them from a distance, we facetime each other within our house, we have to."

Driver Jayden Morris (left) and Simon Tattersfield who is director of Insite Logistics a specialist hospital machinery provider during the Covid-19 outbreak. NZ Herald by Alex Burton
Driver Jayden Morris (left) and Simon Tattersfield who is director of Insite Logistics a specialist hospital machinery provider during the Covid-19 outbreak. NZ Herald by Alex Burton

Tattersfield has got back out in the field since the Covid-19 lockdown, doing the hands on servicing of hospital machines, and delivery of respirators as New Zealand's DHBs rapidly try to expand their ICU capacity.

Advertisement

"I can't expect to put my staff out there and sit back. I've got to lead by example and show them that it can be done as we manage the risk appropriately.

He was in Wellington Hospital this week, working on one of their machines, catching a commercial flight where he was the only person on the plane or in the airport.

The risks of his exposure to Covid-19 are ever present.

"We're working and off loading we're near the hazardous waste," he says.

"Obviously they've got Covid-19 bins designated for that stuff. You see the guys who are walking past with them.

"The vibe is becoming more anxious from everyone's perspective. Everyone's on tenterhooks a bit more and high alert, right through to security to the orderlies and the vibe around the place is pretty focused and determined."

Dr Sue Tutty, 62, Botany, Auckland

GP in Covid-19 testing clinic

Dr Sue Tutty is working as a GP at a South Auckland Covid-19 testing clinic. 03/04/20 NZ Herald. Photo: Dean Purcell
Dr Sue Tutty is working as a GP at a South Auckland Covid-19 testing clinic. 03/04/20 NZ Herald. Photo: Dean Purcell

Before Dr Sue Tutty's first shift at the Takanini Covid-19 testing clinic, she had a conversation with her family over dinner about her wishes if she died.

The 62-year-old GP said it was a subject she was at peace with, but not all her family felt the same.

"I know my family were very worried about me working in the Covid centre," Tutty says.

"We had a conversation before this self-isolation was announced and we talked quite a bit that night.

"My younger son got a bit distressed, we were talking about what happened if I died and what were my wishes and some of that advanced care planning stuff.

"I was saying they needed to look after the younger brother till he finished his university.

"You know some of those conversations that families need to have I guess, because we never know when our lives are going to end do we?

"So we did have those conversations as family, because I'm not over 70 but I'm not a young GP."

The South Auckland GP is now working three days a week treating patients at the Takanini Covid-19 testing clinic which began operation on March 21.

"We wear full PPE when we see patients at the Covid centre. We're seeing anyone who's unwell," Tutty says.

"Patients are very anxious when they come through there. So some of it is just dealing with their anxiety. We are seeing people with chest tightness and chest pain and shortness of breath."

That anxiety also flows over to the staff.

"I was there when we had our first positive result, which was the second day we were there, and it was all 'who took that swab?' sort of thing a little bit."

But, the decision to be on the most exposed Covid-19 frontline was not difficult.

"Absolutely. I wouldn't want to not be working. We're doctors, that's what we do."

Catherine Khan, 22, Ponsonby, Auckland

St John paramedic

St John Ambulance emergency medical technician Catherine Khan who is based out of Auckland Central. NZ Herald by Dean Purcell
St John Ambulance emergency medical technician Catherine Khan who is based out of Auckland Central. NZ Herald by Dean Purcell

As a frontline ambulance paramedic, Catherine Khan has had to sharpen her negotiation skills since the Covid-19 lockdown.

She increasingly has to grapple with conflicting impulses in the dozens of Aucklanders she responds to weekly.

People are now often more afraid of hospitals than the trauma or illness that made them dial 111 in the first place.

The 22-year-old Ponsonby resident says arriving to call outs now in full protective face masks and gowns, is an added hurdle at calming patients.

"We're being positive, we want the public to trust us regardless of the fact we might look a little bit different. Because it's already an anxious time for people," Khan said.

"I went to see an elderly person on a night shift who medically was indicated to go to hospital, and we had made that recommendation, but she was very reluctant to do so.

"I know in normal circumstances they wouldn't have had a problem with going and they did express concerns because of the [Covid-19] situation.

"That's quite challenging. It's a very new thing. Because we have to have those conversations around: 'Yes there's a threat. You may not want to go into hospital because of the circumstances, but medically we still have to do what's best for you'."

St John Ambulance staff Catherine Khan and George Tyrell who are based out of Auckland Central. 02 April 2020 NZ Herald photograph by Dean Purcell.
St John Ambulance staff Catherine Khan and George Tyrell who are based out of Auckland Central. 02 April 2020 NZ Herald photograph by Dean Purcell.

The challenges don't stop at the end of Khan's shift either - she is isolated from her entire family.

"Before the isolation and the lockdown period occurred I did say goodbye to a lot of my family members who I probably wouldn't see for a relatively long time," she said.

"I said goodbye to my Mum, my grandparents, my siblings, simply because some of them are immunocompromised, they've got other problems with their health and I don't want to be exposing them to those things.

"So it's hard. I don't really know when I'll be able to see them again. It does take a toll."

But the public's support has made it easier.

"In general we've had a massive outpouring of support from the general public. People have offered us food, encouraging words, people are offering to volunteer, messages on my morning coffee cup."

The race is on to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Komal Patel, 28, Auckland

New World Long Bay checkout supervisor

New World Long Bay checkout operator Komal Patel is one of our essential worker heroes behind the checkout - now with a perspex protective screen. 02 April 2020 New Zealand Herald photo; Peter Meecham
New World Long Bay checkout operator Komal Patel is one of our essential worker heroes behind the checkout - now with a perspex protective screen. 02 April 2020 New Zealand Herald photo; Peter Meecham

For weeks, Komal Patel has been stacking supermarket shelves at night because there is no time to restock during the public's carefully orchestrated daily parade through the isles.

Patel is the checkout supervisor for New World Long Bay, and says the staff have been working an assortment of night shifts to deal with the unrelenting demand from Covid-19 panic buying.

But the 28-year-old Long Bay resident says she is proud to do it for her local community.

"We were told our hours are going to change at the moment," Patel says

"We are trying our best to put everything on the shelves in a night. Before this we hadn't done the night shift but nowadays for the customers demand we are doing it.

"To make customers happy. To restock the shelves because in between we don't have time. So we have to put in the maximum time during the night, doing extra hours."

Komal Patel working the Long Bay New World checkout. NZ Herald photo by Peter Meecham
Komal Patel working the Long Bay New World checkout. NZ Herald photo by Peter Meecham

Patel moved to Long Bay a year ago with her husband Krunal, who is also working at a New World supermarket in Devonport.

The resident of Auckland's North Shore immigrated from India to New Zealand in 2017 and met her husband here.

Amid the night work, Patel also oversees the checkouts manned by masked staff during the day.

"The thing is, working in these days, I'm really happy. I feel proud of myself to be working at this time," Patel says.

"There is more responsibility at this time. It's really a privilege for me, for my community. If I don't go to work what are they going to do? Everyone needs us right at the moment."

Patel says the rush on supermarkets that occurred at various trigger points since our first confirmed Covid-19 case has been stressful, but things are much more positive and manageable now.

"That was pretty difficult but we used to keep our customers calm and happy, we had to tackle that. At the time everyone had a fear of what's going to happen.

"When we got the news of the lockdown, we felt 'oh what's going to happen next?' But it's just going smoothly."

Quin Webster, 54, Takapuna, Auckland

Firefighter

* By Elizabeth Binning

Senior Station Officer Quin Webster, Takapuna Fire Station. NZ Herald photo by Michael Craig.
Senior Station Officer Quin Webster, Takapuna Fire Station. NZ Herald photo by Michael Craig.

Senior Station Officer Quin Webster has been living in self isolation for nearly two weeks in a bid to keep his wife, three sons and mother-in-law safe.

That has meant staying in a separate room, using a separate bathroom when he's not at work. It also meant not giving his son a hug for his 18th birthday on Sunday.

"I have kept myself separate from two days before the lockdown, I've basically kept myself isolation...my mother-in-law is 77 so I don't want to put her at risk in anyway."

It's a price the 54-year-old Takapuna firefighter is willing pay so he can keep doing his job and keep his family safe at the same time.

"It's a small sacrifice in the greater scheme of things, there's a lot happening in the world."

Life at the station has changed dramatically for Webster and his crew. The shift starts with a full clean of the station and fire engines and all equipment like computers and keyboards.

Social distancing is followed as much as possible, even at callouts where more PPE is worn, and non-essential interaction with the public has been reduced to a minimum.

"Each station now has it's own bubble effectively."

Left to right: Senior Firefighter Jane Bogust, Senior Firefighter Ross Moore, Senior Station Officer Quin Webster and Senior Firefighter Doug Kinsella. NZ Herald photo by Michael Craig.
Left to right: Senior Firefighter Jane Bogust, Senior Firefighter Ross Moore, Senior Station Officer Quin Webster and Senior Firefighter Doug Kinsella. NZ Herald photo by Michael Craig.

While callouts have reduced there has been an increase in rubbish fires so Webster's asking people to put backyard burnoffs on hold. The less time firefighters are at jobs the less chance they have of becoming sick themselves.

Webster said the change in weather is a big concern now so people need to check smoke alarms, be vigilant when cooking and with home heating and have an escape plan.

Glyn Avery, Wellington

Wellington Zoo keeper

Glyn Avery, Wellington Zoo herbivore and birds team leader, on Day 8 of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown. April 2, 2020. NZ Herald photo by Mark Mitchell
Glyn Avery, Wellington Zoo herbivore and birds team leader, on Day 8 of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown. April 2, 2020. NZ Herald photo by Mark Mitchell

Conducting a health assessment on an African goat when the vet and zoo keeper have to remain in separate rooms is cumbersome to say the least.

That's the new reality Wellington Zoo's Herbivore & Bird team leader, Glyn Avery, has had to deal with since the crowds have filtered out from behind their enclosure railings.

While most of the essential businesses designated to remain operating during the Covid-19 lockdown are to service human needs, the exotic tastes and of zoo animals do not rest for a minute.

A team of 25 zookeepers and vets - split into two isolated groups - still remain at Wellington Zoo tending to the animals.

"Everyday the animals still need to be fed and all of their husbandry needs. That can be things like cleaning. The animals that need veterinary care are receiving that," Avery says.

"But we have changed the way that we work operationally, to employ social distancing and that sort of thing so we minimise the risk to the zoo's operations."

This separation from his colleagues has made handling some animals a logistical feat.

"For example the other day we did a health assessment on a goat. So ordinarily that would be the keepers in with the vet, but I went into the paddock with the goat, brought the goat down to the glass window with some treats at the front of the habitat, and then got it lined right up there so the vets could see."

Fear that Covid-19 could be passed on to animals such as the great apes also has keepers keeping "extreme distance" from them and monitoring their own health.

The diminished numbers of homo sapiens sharing the zoo grounds has also been noticed.

"It's very quiet at the moment. We miss the guests ourselves," Avery says.

"The animals are quite inquisitive. They are noticing the difference. They're quite curious, as we go around they're looking at what we do."

Larissa Jacobs, 38, Hastings

Police officer

38-year-old Hastings police officer, Larissa Jacobs, says she has only attended one job in the full PPE suit so far, but that patrol cars now all have the kits. NZ Herald photo by Warren Buckland
38-year-old Hastings police officer, Larissa Jacobs, says she has only attended one job in the full PPE suit so far, but that patrol cars now all have the kits. NZ Herald photo by Warren Buckland

A photo of constable Larissa Jacobs in full hazmat suit on a NZ Police Facebook page this week revealed to Kiwis the stark new form they would encounter officers in public.

The 38-year-old Hastings police officer says she has only attended one job in the full PPE suit so far, but that patrol cars now all have kits of the gowns, masks and visors stored in the boot.

If police communications believe an incident has a risk of direct exposure to a Covid-19 case, the attending officers are instructed to stop and change into the kits en route.

"That job there was a female knocking on doors wanting to use the bathroom and she had quite a lot of flu like symptoms so we stopped somewhere and kitted up for that job," Jacobs says of the Facebook snap.

"We don't want to scare the public by wearing the suit but at the same time at the back of your head you think 'are we going to get in a scuffle?'."

A photo of constable Larissa Jacobs in full hazmat suit on a NZ Police Facebook page this week revealed to Kiwis the stark new form they would encounter officers in public. Source: NZ Police Facebook
A photo of constable Larissa Jacobs in full hazmat suit on a NZ Police Facebook page this week revealed to Kiwis the stark new form they would encounter officers in public. Source: NZ Police Facebook

But although Jacobs admits there is "a lot of added pressure" with the new procedures, the biggest stress from front line policing is the public's ignorance and disregard of the lockdown rules.

"We're doing a lot of patrolling and actually educating people on the streets that are not understanding of the seriousness of this," she says.

It's not hard for Jacobs to recognise the seriousness, as she has had to isolate from her 19-year-old daughter since the lockdown.

"My daughter stays with me but she's actually staying out on a farm [now] because I don't want her exposed if I got ill or something.

"It's hard, we're very close, but it is what it is. We're both in a positive mind frame and we keep in contact. So it's just keeping that going, keeping that contact going. Mainly phone calls, text."

Fahimeh Rahnama, 52, Kumeu

Laboratory scientist testing Covid-19 samples

Fahimeh Rahnama is lead scientist for the Auckland Hospital reference team, one of several labs around New Zealand testing human swab samples of potential new cases of Covid-19. Source: Auckland DHB
Fahimeh Rahnama is lead scientist for the Auckland Hospital reference team, one of several labs around New Zealand testing human swab samples of potential new cases of Covid-19. Source: Auckland DHB

Fahimeh Rahnama is in the midst of a rapid intensification of her virology lab in Auckland Hospital - as an expanding team of 20 plus scientists attempt to churn through up to 1000 Covid-19 test samples a day.

Rahnama is lead scientist for the Auckland Hospital reference team, who are one of several laboratory hubs around New Zealand testing human swab samples of potential new positive cases of Covid-19.

In a matter of weeks her team has gone from 14 staff, comprising experienced laboratory molecular scientists, and technicians, to over 20.

Today Rahnama has been forced to take her first day off, after working 12 straight.

"I mean last two weeks have been really long days, 10 to 12 hours," Rahnam said this week.

"This weekend my manager said I had to have to take two days off, before I go back to work.

"My family, I'm the only one who works. My family, to be honest I don't see them nowadays, ha. I work so much that I come home and I go to bed.

"I'm in my own bubble."

But Rahnama also says the level of forward planning required in the lab is also huge.

"Nothing goes as normal nowadays, the companies that were really reliable at delivering stuff to us, they just can't do it anymore, too much demand from around the world," she says.

"People don't have any idea how much work you have to do, it's not just the testing."

But in terms of the laboratory work itself and it's proximity to Covid-19 samples, Rahnama is not phased at all.

"I would say it's minimal [risk]. People often ask me is it safe to work in the lab? And I usually say that's the safest place to work. It's safer than to be on the street. Because we make sure we deactivate the virus before transferring it to any other part of the lab.

"Staff are more concerned about being infected in the community. In the lab we are geared up and relatively safe."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website