3 Apr 2020

Week one of lockdown: What life's been like for essential workers

1:00 pm on 3 April 2020

The first full working week of the new normal is almost over - most New Zealanders are holed up at home, and relying on essential workers to keep the country running, how are the workers getting on?

Queues at Mt Wellington Countdown on the 28th of March

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly


Countdown says demand is still high in supermarkets, as people continue to stock up on food.

"Our supply chain was extremely destabilised by the past months shopping, which has caused the impact we're still working through now," Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability Kiri Hannifin said.

She said it's been disappointing to see supermarket workers being treated dreadfully by customers.

"We're not seeing the level of panic buying that we were seeing but we're still seeing pretty heavy demands.

"It's still pretty tough on our team, I'm not going to lie to you."

The business has welcomed 1000 new employees over the past week, she said.

General practitioners

GPs say their profession is facing a financial crisis because of the lockdown.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says 600 of 900 members who responded to a survey yesterday said their hours have been reduced.

Medical director of the College of General Practitioners Bryan Betty said the shift to phone or video consultations because of Covid 19 has caused a big downturn in income.

"One of the things that has happened over the last week or two has been an absolute slump in cashflow to practices which is proving to be stressful on General Practice and General Pracitioners."

There's not much room for slippage, he said.

"The Ministry has given us assurances they're going to step in and sort this out next week, we're hoping."

Keeping practices viable is important now and GPs will have a huge backlog of work once the lockdown lifts, he said.

  • 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

Aged care

A charity helping older people says it's been inundated with volunteers wanting to help drop off groceries and make phone calls to the elderly.

Age Concern says its branches around the country have been busy but buoyed by the offers of help.

"We've been inundated with new volunteers wanting to give a hand in some way, New Zealanders are helpers," says chief executive Stephanie Clare.

Local businesses with downtime are also helping.

"A caring connected community will continue after this."

While the older communities are often stoic, Clare said everyone needs help.

"Our older community is listening and staying at home looking after themselves."


It's been a very intense week, Chris Farrelly, chief executive of Auckland City Mission told Morning Report.

"Busy would be an understatement."

Getting homeless into housing, providing food and healthcare are all key areas being worked on across the country, he said.

"We're rapidly putting into motel units homeless people, if you're telling people to self-isolate at home and you don't have a home, what happens?"

Homeless people often have other issues that require intense support, he said.

"This is probably our most significant challenge now."


The chief executive of Road Transport Forum New Zealand, Nick Leggett, says there are hightened levels of anxiety for drivers.

"We're just reminding drivers; you've got to stay safe and you've got to stick to the speed limits."

Truck drivers unable to find toliets to use or a hot drink at the beginning at the week have had a reprieve, with councils opening up public toliets for their use and a petrol station chain serving hot drinks again.

"It's those things that you take for granted, but when life is a bit tougher and there are fewer people working, and there's more anxiety, not being able to get a cup of coffee actually can make a big difference."


Farmers say they're coping well through the lockdown and are pleased they're able to help produce food for the country during such an uncertain time.

The president of Federated Farmers Katie Milne said the drought is complicating their work, but by and large farmers are getting on ok.

She said safety measures such as distancing has slowed some work down - but often farmers are alone anyway, and happy to be able to do their job.

"We're lucky in the type of work we have in that regard.

"We do normally work in a lot of our jobs in some isolation."

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