The Nelson region is already feeling the effects of coronavirus, or Covid-19, with community leaders and local employers holding a public meeting to discuss plans to deal with the global pandemic.
The meeting, organised by Nelson MP Nick Smith, with Tasman Mayor Tim King and Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese, brought together community leaders and business owners to discuss both health and business concerns on Thursday last week.
Announced on Friday, one person has been confirmed to have Covid-19 in New Zealand.
A further 18 people that were seated near the person have been contacted and are in self-isolation.
Nick Smith said at the meeting that the region is already starting to feel the effects of the virus that originated in mainland China, particularly when it comes to the forestry industry and tourism, as well as education.
Nick said that coronavirus is the “biggest risk to our regional economy this year,” and that the meeting was arranged to work with the community to figure out how best to support one another.
Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ali Boswijk says that one of the main problems businesses are having is access to supply.
“A lot of people are not being able to access supplies out of China. We’ve got a number of businesses that rely totally on China for their goods to run their businesses, so they’re the most vulnerable.”
The forestry sector is another area which is seeing the trickle-down effects of the virus.
Dale Ewers, of Moutere Logging, says Chinese wharves are bulging with timber that can’t be unloaded.
“I know of three contractors here in Nelson that have lost their contracts. That’s potentially about 45 people out of work in the logging scene here, and that has a flow-on effect to contractors and everyone to the corner dairy.”
While the virus has had an impact on the forestry sector, Dale says that the Nelson and Tasman regions run 35-40 per cent export overseas.
“The timing has been okay because there has been a bigger demand for domestic logs here in Nelson. We’ve transferred some of our cuts across to the domestic market, but that will have an impact in a couple months’ time.”
Education is another part of the local economy facing the flow on effects of the virus.
Chief executive of NMIT, Liam Sloan, says that 40 students from China haven’t been able to get here. The institution usually expects another 100 students to join throughout the year.
Liam says there could be further impacts for local families.
Seventy per cent of the students coming from China would typically lodge with home-stay parents, many of whom depend on hosting students to make ends meet.
The Nelson Marlborough DHB is also preparing for the virus to reach the region.
Chief executive Peter Bramley says that the DHB wants to reassure the public that they are very busy behind the scenes doing lots of preparation.
Chief medical officer Nick Baker says that the good news was that some countries like Japan have managed to contain explosive growth for the virus.
“We’ve got an emergency coordination centre and we’ve got some community emergency operations centres, looking at supplies of equipment and making sure that we’ve got plans for isolation and quarantine.”
He says that people need to remember best practices like simply washing their hands and covering themselves when coughing and sneezing.