Nelson and the country are in “uncharted territory” says the mayor as swaths of events are cancelled and local businesses start to feel the brunt of a global downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The response to the Covid-19 crisis has kicked up another notch this week with the Government calling a halt to gatherings of more than 500 people, and warning of a recession greater than that of the Global Financial Crisis.
A stimulus package centred around jobs and cushioning those suffering the most immediate effects and strengthening border controls has also been announced.
That has led various Nelson events to be cancelled or postponed, such as Race Unity Day and the Walk for Life, as well as Saturday’s Nelson Market and Monty’s Sunday Market.
However, Mayor Rachel Reese says one of the strengths of the region is that we are practised at emergencies and planning has been going on for some time.
“We have done preparation trials for pandemics before … but this is uncharted territory given the scale of this across the globe.”
She says local businesses will also feel the impact and implored owners to take up the Government’s fiscal package.
“The message to business owners is that this isn’t the year to try and get by and not take up assistance. Some have never had to ask for support. Well, the Government wants people to come forward.”
Rachel says that people need to listen to the advice of experts when it comes to social gatherings.
“We know this virus is more serious for older people. This is going to be one time where decisions made by younger people may save some lives.”
She also says that anyone not feeling well should stay home and, like Nelson City Council, make sure that businesses continuity had plans in case people needed to self-isolate.
Nelson shoppers have also emptied shelves in some stores, going for staples such as bread, rice and pasta and buying toilet paper, water, medicines and cleaning products in bulk.
However, supermarket giants insist there is plenty of food to go around and have urged people to shop normally.
Rachel urged calm. “I’ve got no information that grocery supply chains will be interrupted. Please do sensible shopping. For emergency management, make sure you have a couple of weeks stored – enough to get by. But this is not the time to start major stockpiling.”
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is planning on reducing its capacity on the airline’s domestic routes by about 30 percent in April and May, but they will all remain operational.
Rachel says this will likely affect Nelson.
“The impact will be significant. For us, that visitor economy employs a lot of people.”
Nelson Regional Development Agency chief executive Mark Rawson says they are trying get a better understanding of the situation affecting businesses.
“Obviously anything that restricts the flow of markets will have an impact in the short to medium term … It’s important to understand it will likely have an impact on visitor spending and not just accommodation – we’re likely to see some significant impacts on retail and hospitality.”
He says that to help, Nelsonians can support our local visitor experiences, hospitality and retail sector.
The cancellations of forward bookings have also increased very quickly.
The Ministry of Education is also phoning every school in the country to discuss plans for to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
In its bulletin to principals on Monday, the ministry said its staff would call this week to ask principals about their school’s ability to teach children online if they were asked to close.
The message said ministry staff would ask principals if their teachers would be able to provide online learning, how many students did not have their own
devices, and how many did not have a home internet connection.
Cabinet has also given the green light for the Immigration Minister to be able to deport any foreigners who do not comply with a medical officer’s instruction to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival into the country, which will be made a condition of every visitor visa.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health says no updates will be provided on the two people in isolation for Covid-19 in Nelson unless they test positive.
Nelson Marlborough Health confirmed on Friday that two people were in isolation, under surveillance and receiving support from the Public Health Service.
It was said at the time one had symptoms at a “low level”, while the other did not currently have any symptoms.
– with RNZ and NZHerald