- Lockdown extended to 11.59pm Tuesday
- Cases confirmed in Wellington
- Concerns at level of activity in Whanganui
- Health workers abused at testing station
Whanganui leaders say that the government's decision to extend the nationwide lockdown is the right one - but there are some concerns about how well the Whanganui community are following the rules.
At a post-cabinet press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that the entirety of New Zealand will remain at alert level 4 until at least 11.59pm on Tuesday.
Currently, there are 31 confirmed cases of community transmission across the country, 28 in Auckland and three in Wellington.
The alert level 4 extension brings the nationwide alert level in line with that of Auckland and Coromandel which were originally placed in lockdown for a period of seven days.
A further decision on the future of the country's alert level will be made at a cabinet meeting on Monday.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said with a number of close contacts still untested, as well as today's discovery of three cases in Wellington, the decision to extend was the right one.
"It's all about uncertainty, and there is absolutely uncertainty," McDouall said.
"When you've got thousands of close contacts, you've really got to start looking at the extension. I think a short extension until Tuesday at least is totally appropriate."
A more pressing concern for a centre like Whanganui now is the discovery of three confirmed cases in Wellington, McDouall said.
"Wellington is two hours down the road, and many of our residents come and go from the city. The discovery down there really stands as a reminder of how close to home this outbreak really is."
McDouall said, on the whole, it appears the Whanganui community is coping well with the restrictions and following the rules.
"I've witnessed some pretty good compliance and some incredible work from our essential workers. When I went through the supermarket an hour ago, I only saw one person without a mask."
"Apart from that, I've been for two long walks and I didn't see a car for at least half an hour. It does seem busier between 7-8pm for some reason, but I'm sure there's an explanation behind that."
Whanganui MP Steph Lewis was broadly in agreement, saying the decision of the Cabinet was in the best interests of the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and the economy.
"I think it is the right decision. You only have to see the new cases and close contacts to see that it's the right call," Lewis said.
"These contacts outside of Auckland are spread across the North and South Island. It's still early days, and we just can't take any risks with Delta."
"We know that going hard and early to maintain an elimination approach is the best strategy to ensure that our people are safe, and our economy remains in a strong state."
Lewis also said that today marks the first day businesses can apply for the government's wage subsidy programme, to ensure employees remain in work.
Whanganui DHB chief executive Russell Simpson told the Chronicle that the decision to extend the lockdown was the right move.
"I think it's the right move. There are many unanswered questions right now in terms of close contacts and how far the virus has spread, and I think an extension is necessary while we attempt to answer them."
But Simpson said he was concerned with the behaviour of some in Whanganui, saying he had noticed a much larger presence on the roads than in last year's level 4 lockdown.
"On the whole, my observations are that it's a lot busier out there than the last lockdown last year. There are more cars on the road than I've seen previously," Simpson said.
"I just want to remind people - only travel if it's to or from work, or to essential services. It's important people do stick to the rules and avoid all non-essential travel."
That was a view echoed by Whanganui Police Area Commander Inspector Nigel Allan, who said there appeared to be an unnecessary amount of people out and about.
"We seemed to have more people out on the street than I would expect considering we are at alert level 4 and the previous 48-hour exemption to travel home has now expired," Allan said.
"It is crucial that people stick to the rules and avoid all non-essential travel to reduce the chances of Covid-19 impacting our community."
"Police will continue to closely monitor compliance to support our communities to be safe. People will need a very good reason to be out and about."
Meanwhile, Simpson also raised further concerns about the behaviour of some at the DHB's main Covid-19 testing facilities.
There were some instances on Thursday and Friday where people had abused health workers facilitating testing at Whanganui's two testing facilities on the grounds of the hospital, and Gonville Health Centre.
"These guys are putting their own lives at risk to protect the community. We need our community to play their part and make sure they value the work that's done by these essential workers."
"We're here for our people - my biggest concern is the way my staff are being treated."