27 Mar 2020

Family of essential worker worried about breaching bubble

1:53 pm on 27 March 2020

The family of an essential worker at the Wellington harbour are worried he will bring Covid-19 home, and they are calling for more information about how to keep their bubble safe.

Wellington waterfront, 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Maria Sainsbury's husband workers at the Wellington harbour Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Maria Sainsbury said her husband is a harbour pilot in Wellington, where he must board foreign vessels and deal with the crew.

She said he works away for five day stints and returns home for four days.

"They have not been considered - they have just told them that they must work because you are an essential worker," she said.

"Well okay, well how does that framework work around me being an essential worker? What are the risks to me and to my family? I am an asthmatic but I also have an auto-immune condition that could put me more at risk if he does get it."

Sainsbury said the government needed to release more guidelines for families in her position.

In the meantime, they are taking extra safety precautions when he is home.

"We have decided we will sleep in separate bedrooms, that we will use separate bathrooms and that we will keep a good distance between us.

"We are having to practice our distancing in our family bubble so in actual fact we are undertaking to be separate isolation for four weeks, because we have got no way of knowing if he has been exposed to it at all."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Sainsbury has emailed the Ministry of Health and requested more guidelines.

In a statement, the Ministry said it understands the concerns of essential workers and their families and work is underway to provide them answers and advice.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

"An All of Government team is providing advice and information to all New Zealanders on COVID-19 - including information for essential workers relating to health, business and financial support," a spokesperson said.

"The team is working hard to update its website and respond to a huge volume of queries."

It said the team has confirmed it is working to update Ministry advice and respond to people's concerns, including those raised in Sainsbury's email.

Advice for what essential workers can do to keep safe at work is available on the [https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/essential-businesses/

Covid-19 website.]

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Further advice supplied by the Ministry of Health

I'm an essential worker - what do I need to do to keep safe?

Workers need to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others, while working. This means following and cooperating with any reasonable health and safety instructions, policies and procedures that you're given, to stay safe and to make sure you don't risk the health and safety of others that you come in contact with through your work. Work with your employer to help develop any new ways of working that are needed to keep you and others safe.

In addition, there are a number of things people can do to keep safe when they get home.

The most important thing for essential workers to do when they get home is to wash their hands immediately and practice good hygiene.

This includes

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • before eating or handling food

    after using the toilet

    after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children's noses

    after caring for sick people.

  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell and call Healthline.

If you are very concerned you may wish to:

  • Minimise close contact with people by avoiding situations where you have face-to-face contact closer than 1 metre for more than 15 minutes.
  • Use your own toothbrushes, eating and drinking utensils (including cups and glasses in the bathroom and bedroom), dishes, towels, washcloths or bed linen. Do not share food and drinks or prepare food for others. Wash your clothing and dishes separate to others in your home.
  • Clean surfaces like kitchen benches and sink tops after you use them and try to avoid touching them after you have cleaned them.
  • Make sure you use separate towels from other people in your house, both for drying yourself after bathing or showering and for drying your hands. Ask your family or the people you live with to remember to use their own towels.
  • If you use a shared toilet and bathroom, it's important that you clean them every time you use them (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with). You may wish to be the last to use the shower/bath in the morning or evening to make this easier on those you live with. You should use your own toilet paper, hand towels, toothpaste and other supplies during your self-isolation.

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