Whanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson says the DHB is well prepared in the case of a discovery of the virus in Whanganui.
"The DHB staff and the hospital have been in a state of readiness should there be a case of community transmission and, unfortunately, that is where we are now with the recent cases in Auckland.
"As a community we have been here before; as a health service we have also been here before. The Delta strain is highly contagious and we need to ensure we remain safe, in our bubbles and limit any non-essential contact."
Simpson said the DHB was in close contact with other health providers in the district should a community case emerge.
The Whanganui DHB catchment has had nine cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, the most recent of which recovered in April last year.
A Whanganui DHB spokesperson said about 500 Covid-19 vaccination appointments had been cancelled on Wednesday as a result of the alert level change.
Vaccinations are set to resume at the DHB's main vaccination facility on Victoria Ave on Thursday. The centre is appointment-only, and those travelling to the centre for a vaccination will be required to observe level 4 protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
As at 2.30pm on Wednesday, 80 people had been tested at the DHB's main testing centre on the grounds of Whanganui Hospital. The spokesperson said while the facility was scheduled to close at 5pm, hours would be extended if there were still people queuing to be tested.
When it comes to Whanganui Hospital's operation under level 4, all visitors are prohibited, except for patients in end-of-life care, patients in the critical care unit, maternity unit and one parent for patients in the children's ward.
Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should get tested immediately.
Key messages from the Whanganui DHB:
• If you are unwell, please stay home. Do not go to work or school. Do not socialise.
• If you have cold, flu or Covid-19 symptoms, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and get advice about being tested or visit the CBAC on the Whanganui campus.
• If you have been told to self-isolate you legally must do so immediately.
Schools prepare for online learning
Rutherford Junior High School principal Diane Henare said the school's staff were currently contacting parents and caregivers of students about how the school plans to tackle the lockdown.
Henare said a number of students did not have access to either a device or an internet connection, meaning the last-minute lockdown announcement had made remote learning difficult.
"We have the online learning programme set up, but because a lot of our families don't have devices and the abruptness of the lockdown announcement makes this a bit more complicated."
She said the school coped well during the last lockdown, and she expected the same this time around.
"I've got the most amazing teaching and support staff, and they supported families throughout. The kids felt nurtured in that - there was constant contact.
"We're hoping for only three days, but we'll wait and see."
Whanganui Intermediate School principal Kathy Ellery said the school was prepared for online delivery of classes after a staff meeting last week, where the school's leadership team ran through their plans in case of a resurgence.
"I called a senior leadership meeting last week as I had a feeling it was imminent. We went over our online plans for delivery and made sure everything could be transferred to an online environment."
Ellery said while the school was ready to go, device accessibility was the main concern and parents had been told to treat the next three days as a "five-day weekend".
If a decision to extend the lockdown was made, the school would initiate its online learning programme from Monday, she said.
"We're saying to families, just take these three days, we'll get everything up, make sure people who need devices get them, and the rubber will hit the road on Monday if there's an extension.
"I think it's a really important time for people to look after themselves, to connect with their whānau in their bubble, and get ready to hunker down if we need to. But we're ready."
Carlton School principal Gary Johnson, who started in the role just over two weeks ago, said the lockdown announcement presented a challenge, but the school was well-equipped for remote learning.
Johnson said work over the next three days was optional, with the school's focus on how to implement a learning programme if there was a lockdown extension.
"The message I've sent out to the community and staff is to just take a breath. We're gearing up for whatever happens next week."
He said he understood there was good connectivity within the school community, but the availibility of data may prove an issue.
"Devices aren't so much a problem - the barriers are more often data usage. We have fantastic online programmes, but they chew through a bit of data.
"I'm also in the position where I don't know everyone that well, so I'm trusting my deputy and assistant principals on this. They've got a good handle on things."
Civil Defence response
The Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MWCDEM) Group has activated to respond to the lockdown.
MWCDEM Group controller Craig Grant said civil defence had a role to play in ensuring all responding agencies were connected.
"Horizons will provide regional co-ordination and support to all relevant agencies within the region," Grant said.
"This morning we are assessing the latest information and putting our response plan into action."
The ECC is based in Palmerston North and is staffed by Horizons and civil defence staff from across the region.
Grant said while there had been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the region, the community could be assured of local preparedness.
Horizons transport manager Mark Read said passenger transport services remained in place with full bus timetables operating today.
"Buses are available for essential workers and access to essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies only," Read said.
"We are assessing a possible reduction in services for the remaining lockdown period and will put out further information today."
Grant said other than the first ECC team, the rest of Horizons' staff were working from home.
"We understand this threat of the Delta variant has caused some anxiety in our community and strongly encourage people to adhere to the lockdown rules, and keep practicing good hygiene practices to do all that we can to keep it out of our region.
"The most important thing to remember is we're all in this together, collectively we can slow the spread."
Whanganui District Council has closed all facilities under level 4 Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
All parks and sportsfields
All council buildings and venues
Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre
Also the Animal Pound will be closed to the public.
Auckland and Coromandel have gone into level 4 lockdown for seven days – and the rest of the country for three days – following a community Covid-19 case in New Zealand's biggest city.
The council said no appointments for rates rebates would take place over the next three days. Residents are asked to please re-book your appointments online or phone Whanganui District Council on 349 0001.
For enquiries about council services or facilities you can phone 06 349 0001. This line is available 24 hours.
Air Chathams flights have been suspended for the next seven days until midnight Tuesday, August 24, with the exception of a few repatriation flights that will operate on Wednesday.
Three flights, two Whanganui to Auckland and one from Auckland to Whanganui, will go ahead.
Air Chathams' chief operating officer Duane Emeny said they would continue their supply runs to the Chatham Islands, but all mainland New Zealand flights would be suspended.
"We ran our usual early morning flight [on Wednesday] from Whanganui to Auckland," Emeny said.
"Then that aircraft flew back to Whanganui at 8.30am and it will sit on the ground until about 3.30 this afternoon and will depart back to Auckland with whatever passengers need to get back, and then that is basically it.
"We will park up all our mainland regional aircrafts, the ones servicing Whanganui, Kāpiti Coast and Whakatane, we will park them in Auckland and leave them there until we leave level 4.
"We just have to wait and see what happens and keep reacting as things chop and change. Good or bad, we are getting reasonably efficient at it."
Operational changes for businesses
Dempsey and Forrest funeral director James Forrest said they had an extremely big week of funerals planned.
"We had five funerals planned for Thursday - of course, things have had to change. We are just working through that with families at the moment as to whether they are going to hold the funerals over until after lockdown or whether they decide to have their loved one cremated and have a memorial after. It's a challenging time.
"It's having a big impact on our families that we are caring for. It's a little bit of the unknown for us as well, once we get this through this three-day lockdown whether it is extended."
He said their phone had been "ringing mad".
"All four lines have been going the whole time. It affects all sorts of things. We had headstone unveilings, interment of ashes where families get together to inter ashes, it's not just the funerals we are talking about. These poor families, we are just here to guide them and try make it as smooth as possible.
Having gone through the experience of operating under Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, Forrest said they were prepared.
"We certainly did learn a lot last time. I had never been involved in a Zoom meeting before, straight away that was something we had to implement.
"The big thing that came out of it for me was how understanding families were about the situation. We had no backlash, no complaints, people just took it on board. It's so hard on them. I just hope it doesn't have to go on for long."
Stacey Simpson from Central City Pharmacy said they would be open for their normal hours, 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, as a "closed-door" pharmacy.
"The counter for the store is at the door. We are also offering free deliveries on subscriptions through level 4."
Simpson said although the move to level 4 was quick, it wasn't unexpected.
"We planned for this eventuality and they warned if there was a Delta variant case out there we would go into a snap lockdown. I guess I was surprised it was the whole country, but I can understand why."
She said they learnt a lot during the lockdown in 2020 about their systems and how to best serve their customers.
"Just the IT side of things. All of us were on a steep learning curve with electronic prescriptions and contactless prescriptions. It doesn't seem like people are as panicked this time, they are just ringing up like they usually do. It's good."
Midtown Motors owner Raj Patel said they were open for essential services and breakdowns.
"We will attend breakdowns, flat batteries and flat tyres - things like that," Patel said.
"We are diverting the Midtown Motors line to my mobile line. If anyone has questions, we can talk them through it.
"The workshop is closed, and I will bring workers in as required. If we have an influx of jobs, they will come in when needed."