25 Aug 2021

New isolation rules cutting off food support for families

6:47 am on 25 August 2021

New Covid-19 isolation rules are preventing struggling families from picking up food donations, social services say.

Food parcels at  BBM HQ in Manukau.

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Last week a new Section 70 notice was brought in under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.

Now, not only do visitors of locations of interest have to self-isolate pending a day five negative test, their whole household does too.

This means visiting food banks is off the table.

South Seas Healthcare chief executive Silao Vaisola-Sefo told RNZ in homes where nobody was allowed outside, hungry people faced difficult choices.

"If they're self-isolating at home for whatever period there is actually no one to get food for them. So they're having to come out to actually get that support... So we are looking at ways of how do we support them safely so they don't have to leave their homes but, as you can imagine, we're really stretched."

Vaisola-Sefo said the need was more intense this lockdown as families were just getting over job losses, financial burdens and school disruptions from last year when the outbreak struck.

VisionWest Community Trust chief executive Lisa Woolley has seen households in a similar dilemma in West Auckland.

They can't go to the trust's drive-through food supply service even when the cupboards are bare.

"We've got schools around us and just general areas [of interest] around Glen Eden," she said.

"So we are seeing significant numbers of people who are now in self-isolation and then trying to access food. That's having a major impact for people."

Auckland City missioner Helen Robinson said in some cases neighbours or wider family were helping people get food from the mission's distribution sites or supermarkets.

But there are more than 300 locations of interest across Auckland, Coromandel and Wellington, and counting.

Robinson was acutely aware of the growing number of families and flatmates connected.

"There are a number of our staff who have been at locations of interest or have been in a household with people at locations of interest. So, every day, when there is another large amount of locations added, we just take a deep breath and just see how that will affect us."

Some support services are managing to safely deliver necessities to properties at alert level 4.

Ngāti Tamaoho Trust chair Tori Ngātaki (Ngāti Tamaoho, Ngāti Āmaru, Ngāti Maniapoto,Tūhoe) said whānau were filling out online surveys listing what they needed, and the trust was bringing it to them.

But, unlike the last lockdown, there are no socially distanced conversations during the stops.

"We drop the boxes at their door, we leave and then we wait till we are in the vehicles and then our kaumātua collect their kai boxes," she said.

Tori Ngātaki said Tāmaki-based iwi trusts were banding together to support all whānau in the city with kai, regardless of whether their marae was in or out of town.

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