29 Mar 2020

Taranaki Civil Defence calls time on Good Samaritan groups

3:27 pm on 29 March 2020

Taranaki Civil Defence is asking Good Samaritan groups to leave caring for the vulnerable during the Covid-19 lockdown to essential services, close family and neighbours.

New Plymouth on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

An empty New Plymouth street on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Alternate group controller Sue Kelly said people coordinating informal volunteer groups that required physical mobilisation to provide a service to others should stop.

"They're not recorded as an essential service so therefore they should not be operating at all in this lockdown period. They're not meant to be out there so if they get stopped at any stage ... they're not an essential service so they shouldn't out in the community."

Kelly said government advice was that people could drop off groceries to vulnerable friends, family members, or neighbours, but should they should remain 2 metres apart and avoid physical contact.

"There are organisations such as Meals on Wheel, which are recorded as an essential service, so they are allowed to go out and if somebody is doing routine shopping for an elderly aunt or parent who's not able to get out yes then they can, but everybody else should be staying at home."

  • 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

Kelly said she understood that people wanted to help.

"We are seeing many offers of personal help and assistance, and we want to acknowledge the outpouring of concern and support that the community has shown, particularly to those in our community who may need help.

"But as we are now in alert level 4, it is so important that everyone stays home, and that people only make physical contact with those that they live with."

Kelly said there were ways groups could help.

"I think what we really need is a central location where all these Good Samaritan groups can register their interest and also register what facilities they would like to make available to the community and that way we at the Civil Defence emergency centre can coordinate all of that potential help."

Invisible Help initiative

Shinning Peak Brewery co-founder Jesse Sigurdsson set up the Invisible Help initiative as news broke that the brewery, bar and restaurant would be closing.

Sigurdsson and his colleagues wanted offer their services as driver for older people with no family.

They would do deliveries and essentially become a part of their bubble to operate safely.

"We came up with it when the over 70s and immunity compromised people were sort of told to lock-in and stay indoors. We just thought not everyone's going to necessarily have access to someone who can get their groceries or medication or a book or even chat to."

Sigurdsson said Civil Defence had not been in touch regarding the service.

"We have been trying to keep an eye on it because obviously it's a little uncertain whether we can be doing what we are doing, but then I guess my biggest concern is who's going to be doing this for these people if we're not."

He said Shining Peak staff would not have been put at risk.

"When it comes down to other essential services people are out and about and they're just using precautions as we are. So couriers are still out and about and it's all contactless and it's all done with as many precautions as possible."

Sigurdsson said if necessary Shining Peak would now look for other ways to help.

"We'll put everything into this to make sure we are doing it right or we are doing it above board and if we are told we can't be doing it then ... then we can't be doing it."

Other initiative changes plan

Erina Cresswell set up the Whanganui Self Isolation Help Page on Facebook which rapidly grew to have more than 1000 members.

It too had proposed making deliveries to isolated people.

Cresswell said the situation had evolved so quickly - and following advice from Safer Whanganui - the page was now aiming to be positive place where people could come during the shutdown.

"We are now offering a way to stay connected and offer mentorship and a host for events such as live streams of church services and free exercise classes. We are also starting a daily birthday thread."

Ms Cresswell said she was also using contacts developed through the self-isolation page to build a background community group which would work in conjunction with official authorities to help where they could.

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