People have been queuing at Whanganui supermarkets and the Community Based Assessment Centre (CBAC) as New Zealand goes back into Covid-19 restrictions.

Auckland moved to alert level 3 from midday Wednesday, as four cases of community transmission of Covid-19 were announced last night.

The rest of New Zealand moved to level 2 from midday Wednesday.

The restrictions will last three days until midnight Friday.

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This morning there were queues of people in vehicles waiting to be tested for Covid-19 at the Community Based Assessment Centre (CBAC) on the Whanganui Hospital grounds. There were also queues at supermarkets.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said he does not want people to panic with the move to level 2 as there are enough supplies for everybody.

But he does want people to take personal responsibility for their health.

"Washing your hands, if you feel at all ill go home, just go home it's really simple.

"Pay attention to where you are and where you're going, just jot it down, you might pop out to the lunch bar for 10 minutes but just note it down."

He said the council is reassessing the size of some of its coming events.

"Nothing's been cancelled yet but those discussions are ongoing.

"While we can still shop and go out in a social distanced way, let's keep supporting our businesses as well."

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McDouall encouraged people to download the Covid Tracer app and for those aged 70-plus to stay at home and let their families help them out if they can.

"When Dr Ashley Bloomfield said 'it's only a matter of time' I think it was great to float that balloon because we might have been living with a false sense of security, and even last week we started to prepare for the eventuality."

Medical officer of heath, Dr Patrick O'Connor, said people should track their contact with other people, either through the Covid Tracer app, or by keeping notes.

"Tracing where you have been is fundamental to helping stop transmission of the virus," he said.

"I also encourage businesses to download the QR tracing posters from the Ministry of Health website, if they haven't already. I also want to encourage people to adhere to social distancing."

O'Connor said wearing a face mask could reduce the risk of infected people spreading Covid-19.

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"Face masks are particularly useful if there is known community transmission, and people are in close proximity to each other such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.

Whanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson said the country has been through this before and he is confident the Whanganui region and all of New Zealand can do it again.

But he said "alert level 2 is not life as normal".

"We have our pandemic and hospital plans in place and have prepared locally for future community outbreak.

"We have trained staff in operating an emergency operations centre if needed."

With good links between health, iwi, social and council organisations, Simpson said it has already been proven that the region is a strong resilient and supportive community.

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He urged the community not to panic buy, to keep track of where they have been and who they have seen.

"If you are sick call your GP or Healthline to book a free Covid-19 test, and get tested if asked."

Flight timetable changes

Air Chathams has cancelled its scheduled flights between Whanganui and Auckland on Thursday and Friday.

There are changes to today's timetable. Whanganui to Auckland flight 3C709 scheduled for 4.45pm departed at 12 noon. Auckland to Whanganui flight 3C708 scheduled for 6.20pm will depart at 3pm. An extra Whanganui to Auckland flight will depart at 4.30pm. Face masks are compulsory on all flights.

"If you are due to travel to/from Auckland during this time and wish to change your travel plans now, you have a number of options available including an alternative flight in the next 14 days or a credit voucher," the airline's website says.

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"We may need to cancel some flights due to the alert level 2 & 3 restrictions. Where a domestic flight is cancelled, customers will be contacted directly with available options, which depending on the circumstances may include additional options."

Schools operating under level 2 procedures

Martin McAllen, principal of Whanganui High School and chairman of the Whanganui Secondary Principals' Association said the level 2 procedures advice provided by the Ministries of Education and Health is followed completely.

"Our large school of around 1400 students has full measures in place to ensure the health and safety of all students, teachers and support staff as well as any visitors to our school.

"We will ensure that students do not gather together in groups of more than 100. Our average class size is about 23 students so that is not a problem; we will cancel all house and year level assemblies while we are at alert level 2 and there will be no gatherings of more than 100 students together at the same time."

McAllen said Ministry of Education advice is that students do not need to wear masks at school under alert levels 2 and 3, although he supports students and staff to wear them if they wish to.

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"We are fully prepared for a return to distance learning if the need arises in our Whanganui region," he said.

"We are a Google Classroom school across all year levels - we know from the lockdown period that all students and teachers benefitted from regular contact and feedback with one another regarding levels of understanding and progress as well as overall well-being."

McAllen said he thinks all students and staff learnt life-long lessons from the lockdown.

"We have all reflected on what we might do differently (and what we might do the same) if the situation arises again."

Mosston School principal Michelle Watson said children and staff have adapted well to the sudden return to Covid-19 level 2 procedures.

"The Ministry of Education has advised that we don't need to wear masks and children have been really good about stepping up the handwashing," she said.

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"They are a bit disappointed that we have had to cancel a planned whānau hui night and a visit to Rutherford Junior High but they understand the importance of the safety procedures."

The school, which has a roll of 150, is to receive an environmental award on Friday.

"We were going to have a full school assembly but it is the senior pupils who worked to earn the award," Watson said.

"Rather than cancel it, we've decided to make it for seniors only so we stay within the number requirements for level 2."

FACEMASK
Accommodation impact expected

Burwood Motel manager Aimee Ashworth said she was assuming that, when she opened her emails this morning, some advance bookings would be cancelled.

"I haven't actually done that yet, I'm too scared," Ashworth said.

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"The situation isn't great, but as long as everybody stays healthy and safe, that's the main thing."

Ashworth said the motel was fully booked with domestic tourists.

"We're very busy, and I believe a lot of other accommodation providers are too, so it will be a shame to see it die down again.

"We've been through it before though, and we just have to go back into that mode again.

"I've still got all the old paperwork and the QR code from last time."

Hospitality sector reconfigures premises

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Staff at Caroline's Boatshed are preparing for social distancing rules to come into place at midday today. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Staff at Caroline's Boatshed are preparing for social distancing rules to come into place at midday today. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Caroline's Boatshed restaurant manager Jack Bullock said the venue's operation model would be "adapted" to fit level 2 requirements.

"We need to reduce our tables down so we're under 100 people, and people need to be 1 metre apart," Bullock said.

"It's about preparing for the worst I guess, because no doubt it's going to come.

"We've kept the hand sanitiser stations in place, and the QR codes will be used as of course."

Bullock said the restaurant staff were preparing themselves to be able to operate safely, and it was important to remain open to keep everybody paid.

"We had some really strict procedures in place the first time around, so we'll be picking that up again as the levels go up.

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"It actually means having more staff on in order to keep a single server per table and having your own sections.

"We have over 100 people each service and it feels a bit like our hand has been put up behind our back again.

"We have no choice but to adapt and keep our doors open."

Retirement homes closed to public

New Zealand Aged Care Association has advised all facilities to close their doors from midday. Photo / File
New Zealand Aged Care Association has advised all facilities to close their doors from midday. Photo / File

New Zealand Aged Care Association has advised all facilities to close their doors from midday.

Chief executive Simon Wallace said it is a precautionary measure.

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"The NZACA advice to all rest homes is to move into a three-day lockdown until midnight on Friday. That means no visits and no staff moving between facilities," he said.

"This is a precautionary measure and further advice will be issued on Friday to apply from Saturday onwards."

Impact on recreation and leisure

Splash Centre manager Dave Campbell said the pool and fitness centre complex will be following all Ministry of Health guidelines under level 2.

Social distancing will be place, surfaces cleaned regularly and contact tracing in place.

The centre will monitor numbers to ensure the facility has no more than 100 people.

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Due to the small area sizes, the sauna and steam room will be closed until further notice.

Whanganui River Markets co-ordinator Annette Main said they wouldn't be making a decision about whether Saturday's event would go ahead "until we know that the level 2 restrictions will remain after midday on Friday".

Council services mainly business as usual

Most Whanganui District Council services will remain available under level 2 but social distancing and hygiene requirements will be in place, chief executive Kym Fell said.

Customer services at 101 Guyton St will remain open to the public 8.30am to 5pm, Monday-Friday. Visitors will have to sanitise their hands and provide their contact details. There will be a limit on the number of visitors and people may need to wait before entering the building.

Rates enquiries and rates rebates appointments must be booked in advance by calling (06) 349 0001 or booking online at www.whanganui.govt.nz/rates-rebate-scheme

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Horizons Regional Council says its services will essentially continue as normal with extra physical distancing and contact tracing precautions.

Chief executive Michael McCartney said emergency management staff are continuing in a monitoring role and welfare support is on standby.

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"All our customer service centres remain open at normal hours although we ask that where possible people pay their rates online so we can keep up physical distancing," McCartney said.

"Our staff will be behind screens and regular sanitising of surfaces will occur.

"All our other staff that interact with members of the public and externals will continue to do so with physical distancing and contact tracing in place."

Public transport services will run on normal timetables but with physical distancing in place, which will mean limited capacity.

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"We are asking passengers to self-manage physical distancing on the buses by sitting one seat apart and remaining 2 metres away from others while waiting at stops. Due to needing to create more physical space on services we ask that people travel outside peak hours if possible."

Buses will have QR code posters for contact tracing.

Social distancing at entertainment venues

Embassy 3 Cinema owner Gary Vinnell said all scheduled screenings will be going ahead this week.

"We can manage under level 2 restrictions and we want to keep the doors open," Vinnell said.

"We will reactivate policy guidelines and protocols to ensure the safety of our customers and we have additional plans for automated allocated seating in all theatres to maintain social distancing."

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Vinnell said the cinema is in survival mode and has been since the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown began in March and he is frustrated that new product from the US is unavailable.

"While the government welcomes big-budget filmmakers to our shores, they're ignoring independent cinemas across New Zealand, leaving them at risk of going under," he said.

"We are ramping up activity with selected evenings showing musicals, and another which will highlight classics such as Casablanca."

Confluence Cinema has limited seating in its boutique cinema and owners Melita Farley and Kevin Double have decided to cancel their scheduled screenings this week.

"It is really important to us that we do everything we can to keep everyone safe so we have postponed this week's films - Dental Reunion on Thursday and Penny Pincher on Friday," Double said.

He said those who had pre-booked will be reimbursed and the screenings will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

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What you need to know for level 2

You can still continue to go to work and school, with physical distancing. Wear masks if you can in public.

No more than 100 people at gatherings, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.

Businesses can open to the public if they are following public health guidance, which include physical distancing and record keeping.

People at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, for example those with underlying medical conditions and older people, are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home.

Practice good hygiene - stay home if sick.

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At alert level 2, public venues such as museums, libraries and pools can open if they comply with public health measures and ensure 1 metre physical distancing and record keeping.