The Rotorua Daily Post is bringing back some of the best premium stories of 2020.
While most of us are on lockdown, at home with loved ones, some of Rotorua's essential workers won't get to
see theirs for at least four weeks. They've chosen to self-isolate themselves away from children and partners and are putting their own health on the line every day to make sure everyone in the community, the majority strangers, can access everything they need while New Zealand is in lockdown. If our city's healthcare providers and police staff to our supermarket workers and truck drivers, can do this for us, we should be able to stay home for them.
Today, we get to know some of those on the frontline.
Every day, Rotorua's frontline essential workers risk being exposed to the deadly Covid-19 virus.
They do it because New Zealand needs them to - they're hailed as the 'unsung heroes" of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rotorua truck driver Ricky Bishop is one of those working through the lockdown and his dedication to the job looks set to come with some personal sacrifices.
"It's a bit hard because my family are at home but at the moment I'm having discussions about leaving and going on my own for four weeks. I don't want to leave my family, especially my daughter, she's 10.
"I also live with my mother, she's in that 70-plus category and I don't want to put her at risk. I had a big crying session with my girl last night and it ripped me apart but I have to do it to keep her safe and my mum safe, to keep everyone around us safe."
For supermarkets and petrol stations to continue operating, they need goods to sell. That's where truck drivers come in.
Bishop said it was an honour to continue serving the community.
"Us at Mainfreight, we all kind of feel like we're heroes, we're out there working and providing for everyone who's at home. We do feel proud but then on the other hand, are we going to contract the virus when we're at working?"
Although the quiet roads make travelling easy, he says it is eerie.
"It is pretty weird though, it's so quiet."
Also proud to be serving his community in a time of need is Four Square Koutu's checkout operator Manpreet Basra.
"At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do from home and someone has to serve the community. We are part of the community, we are a community store and it's good we can be open for the elderly people around especially," Basra said.
"It's easier for them to visit their local Four Square because a supermarket can be a bit daunting at the moment. Some of the regulars who aren't comfortable coming in, we've said phone in your orders and we'll drop it off.
"Obviously, there are certain protocol we have to follow, keeping the social distance of two metres is one. Following that feels a bit strange, you can't really call it a normal day," he said.
Basra said he was grateful to all the customers who had followed the rules so far.
"People really are following the rules, they are keeping the distance and showing they really understand this."
Working hard throughout the pandemic, and to keep the city fed is the Foodbank.
The Salvation Army's Lieutenant Kylie Overbye is manning the Foodbank to ensure it's available to the community that needs it.
"The foodbank is a lifeline to those who have exhausted all their means to provide food for themselves, and whilst people are in lockdown, it's reassuring to know they don't need to be consumed with worry about how they can get food on the table. Support is available."
As the Foodbank is often run from community donations, it is proving a new challenge to get the resources they need but Overbye said there were ways around it.
"We aren't receiving individual food donations onsite at this time in order to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.
"However, we would be grateful if people who want to donate non-perishable food items can place them in the purple donation bins at Countdown supermarkets."
Overbye said it was a privilege to be able to serve and support the community where she could.
"We are encouraging people to ring Work and Income and make sure they are receiving the help they are able to. People in desperate need of food assistance can call our office on 07 346 8113."
Police throughout Bay of Plenty are still in action, enforcing the usual laws as well as ensuring residents are sticking to the alert level 4 rules.
Rotorua police acting area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said he and his team were proud to serve the community in "a challenging time".
"Me and all of my staff are most definitely happy to be doing this, this is what we signed up for, this is our business. This is what gets us out of bed every morning.
"We try to go about our business as usual, albeit the nature of what we're doing has changed because of the demand.
"We have a whole lot of processes we go through now, which are added on, which helps keep our families safe."
He said the behaviour of the community since the lockdown began had been mostly pleasing.
"So far, I'm comfortable with the processes we have in place and I'm quite comfortable with the compliance levels of our community. There still have been some individuals pleading ignorance and flouting the boundaries but they've been easily dealt with, but that hasn't happened to the extent we expected, we've been pleasantly surprised."
Dr Tony Farrell from Mount Medical Centre says he is "likely to be exposed" to Covid-19 so keeping his own family safe is something he's often thinking about.
"I"m pretty sure a few of us have lost some sleep," he said.
Ahead of the lockdown, his team worked tirelessly to create changes to their business to ensure the safety of their patients was paramount while also delivering them the best care.
He said staff had been brilliant but it was the personal worries added into the mix which made it harder to sleep.
"I'm probably more likely to be exposed, so I have to think about how I can isolate at home. But how can I keep away from the rest of my family, it's just kind of got real.
"It's eerie. Most healthcare workers in the front line are fairly worried."
Patients were not allowed inside the building unless it had been cleared by staff.
"Our patients have been very helpful and supportive of the change and so I feel the initial part has gone quite well but I'm fearful still of what is to come.
"When I go to work, my social bubble contacts to others' social bubble so we may even zone the medical centre for social distancing so that I only go to certain rooms, and transitioning to paperless.
"But if we do what we are told, I believe we will be able to get through it."
Rotorua expectant mother Elke Semple is grateful to healthcare workers and is thankful to still have the support of her midwife in spite of the pandemic.
She said midwives, along with doctors and nurses, were "unsung heroes" who were just quietly getting on with the job.
"All the mums and mums-to-be are forever grateful that they continue to do their job in the middle of all this craziness," Semple said. "Thank you."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the work those on the frontline were doing was crucial.
"I want to thank everyone in our community at the Covid-19 front line ensuring our people are taken care of, keeping us safe and ensuring essential services are maintained. You are doing a fantastic job and we are very grateful.
"My message to those of us in isolation is don't put our frontline at more risk than they already are in helping to keep our community going. I can't emphasise enough the need to follow the directives and guidelines of our Government, Ministry of Health and police – that is the only way we will stamp this out and every single one of us has a key role to play.
"We're not on holiday, we are fighting a virus and any non-essential activity and movement around the district puts people at risk. Stay in your bubble, stay strong, kia kaha, stay safe, stay connected and be kind – to yourselves and to each other," Chadwick said.
Security guards are also out and about during the lockdown, helping to keep businesses and streets safe, and hospice staff supporting the palliative patients in the community are also among the essential workers.
Rotorua Hospice senior nurse Jenny Jenson said it was a "foreign feeling restricting home visits and avoiding touch with patients", but she knew its importance.
"But we are also on standby to assist with any nursing needs if the health system becomes overwhelmed."