There are now zero active Covid-19 cases in the Lakes Health Board area with 16 out of 16 recovered. How significant a milestone is this and what happens next? Reporter David Beck spoke to some community leaders.
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There are currently no active Covid-19 cases in the Lakes District Health Board area and while community leaders acknowledge it as a significant milestone, there is still work to be done.
All 16 cases in the area have recovered as of Tuesday. There are now no active cases in the entire Bay of Plenty as the Bay of Plenty District Health Board reported today that all 47 of its cases have also recovered as of yesterday.The Lakes DHB's last confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported on April 18.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said "our region has done fantastically well".
"I've been impressed with the caring and aroha that I've seen across our community.
"Levels 4 and 3 haven't been easy for anyone and to have no cases at all now is testament to people's commitment to fighting the virus, and to the exceptional work of all of our health and other essential workers who continue to look after our wellbeing.
"I want to see Rotorua back up and running as soon as possible but we need to continue to be guided by the experts and in the meantime, we need to stick to what we're doing and remain patient so we can transition sooner rather than later."
She said she would be "thrilled" if it were announced we can move to level 2, but reiterated the need to follow the guidelines being set by experts.
"The sooner the better, for the sake of our economy and our people in my view. However, it needs to be carefully managed – as it has been to date – to ensure any transition is at reduced risk because we do not want to end up moving backwards.
"If a regional bubble could be safely implemented I'd certainly be in favour of that, but it's not a decision I can make.
"People are hurting but we need to remember the reason we went into lockdown was to save lives and we need to trust that those leading the management of Covid-19 in New Zealand and have all the information available to them, are working in the best interests of everyone."
Chadwick's comments come as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to announce today more information around alert level 2. Cabinet was to makes its decision on Monday as to whether the country would transition from level 3 to level 2.
New Zealand Hospitality Bay of Plenty president Reg Hennessy said the key now was to get the economy back up and running and to do that the Government needed to give as much information about alert level 2 as possible.
"We don't know [how big a milestone zero cases is] until we find out more about what level 2 is. I can understand people treating it as a milestone on the health side of it but from the business and hospitality side, we just don't know what it means until we find out what level 2 looks like for us.
"The most important thing is for the government to tell us exactly what level 2 will be and then from there we can work as best we can to make it work under the requirements they put on us."
When asked about the idea of having a regional bubble, allowing Bay of Plenty to reduce restrictions before other areas, he said it was good in theory but would be too hard to police.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said zero cases was where we needed to be.
"But we need the rest of the country to be there with us so we can start moving around more freely between regions. We need Australia to be there with us so we can get a bit of international tourism going again - this is the first step, we need two more to follow.
"It shows local people are playing by the rules which good but I don't think it's significant by itself, in terms of helping our economy - we still have the same rules as everyone else.
"It is certainly great to know our region is doing its bit."
Lakes DHB Emergency Operations Centre incident controller Gary Lees described zero active cases as a good milestone but said it was "only a part of the evidence of good progress in containing the Covid-19 virus".
"The national figures are also very important. The main factor in getting us to this point has actually been the public response to the lockdown, by people overwhelmingly sticking to their bubbles it has given us a real chance to stop the spread of the virus.
"So we need to applaud all those members of our community who, despite the challenges, have stuck to their bubble. Another factor in getting us to this point has been the work of Toi Te Ora public health who have been working extremely hard on contact tracing and following up all of the positive cases and their close contacts to ensure that we have contained any spread of infection to the smallest possible group."
He said fighting Covid-19 had been a team effort by all involved.
"Everyone involved in healthcare has been significantly affected by responding to this virus. Large numbers of people have worked long hours, often in different roles than normal and for our front line staff with all the anxieties about dealing with a previously unknown virus and how it could affect them and their families.
"It is extremely important that all members of the public continue to follow the guidelines around social distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene while they are in place because until there are effective treatments and a vaccine, these measures remain our best way to restrict the transmission of the virus.
"We know from the experience in other countries, how quickly case numbers can grow if we relax too quickly."