Covid hush back in the city

If a lone tumbleweed had drifted across Dunedin’s George St yesterday, it would not have seemed out of place.

The city, and the rest of the South, ground to a relative halt as the country was once again plunged into Alert Level 4 lockdown.

A sense of resignation appeared to permeate most of Dunedin throughout day one of the three-day lockdown.

People made the most of the sunshine by getting out for walks, runs, and bike rides in their neighbourhoods, keeping the city’s dogs happy.

There was little activity in Dunedin’s George St at 12.30pm yesterday, as people followed...
There was little activity in Dunedin’s George St at 12.30pm yesterday, as people followed lockdown rules and stayed at home. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
In now familiar fashion, events such as funerals and weddings were indefinitely postponed.

WellSouth chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said GP clinics in both Otago and Southland had been extremely busy all day with Covid-19 testing.

‘‘We are grateful that GP teams have again stepped up quickly to provide Covid-19 testing to communities across the region at such short notice.’’

Dozens of flights came and went from Southern airports as people rushed to get home.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said it was a tough task to meet the Government’s 48-hour deadline.

‘‘In Queenstown ... we’ve got the best part of a couple of thousand people to get home,’’ he said.

The airline was adding extra flights to Queenstown and had upgraded from the usual A320s to the larger A321s.

Many people donned masks as they ventured into supermarkets, dairies and petrol stations — an act that became a requirement last night after a government mandate.

There were short lines outside supermarkets, but most of the panic-buying appeared to have taken place on Tuesday night.

Dundas Corner Dairy owner Mabel Ma said people were following the one-in, one-out rule at the North Dunedin shop and more than 90% of customers wore masks yesterday, or they bought some.

Night ’n Day Foodstores general manager Matthew Lane said a few customers might cause tension for staff and other shoppers by refusing to wear masks, although he expected a high level of compliance.

Most people seemed to be sticking to Level 4 rules.

However, police did have to break up a large student party half an hour after lockdown began.

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said police were called to a Castle St property at 12.30am yesterday by noise control.

They arrived to find more than 100 intoxicated students.

Police dispersed the crowd and a 20-year-old resident was issued a warning and educated about lockdown rules.

People were earlier seen queuing out the door of a liquor store in Leith St on Tuesday night.

A Dunedin police spokesman said unfortunately the lockdown breaches were ‘‘slightly predictable given the images from local bottle stores seen earlier in the evening on social media’’.

‘‘It is disappointing that we had to deploy staff to break up a party given the clear messaging around Level 4.

‘‘Police will continue with the approach of engaging, educating, encouraging and last but not least enforcing during the course of the lockdown.’’

Meanwhile, a 32-year-old woman was pulled over in Stevenson Rd and found to be driving with a breath-alcohol level of 600mcg.

She had been drinking at home, but due to the lockdown announcement wanted to buy more alcohol.

A Southern District Health Board spokeswoman said police were called to an incident at Dunedin Hospital, to speak to a member of the public.

‘‘Most people have been very understanding about the visitor restrictions, and we thank them for this during this challenging time.’’

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said lockdown would be tough, but the city had done it before and could do it again.

‘‘This will be difficult for those whose home isn’t a sanctuary, and our city’s businesses and staff, particularly those in the events, tourism and hospitality industries.

‘‘We know this is tough, but this lockdown is the best, most effective way to combat the Delta variant.’’

‘‘We don’t have to look far to see how much more damage can be done by not responding so decisively,’’ Mr Hawkins said.

All council facilities such as the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum remain closed under Level 4 rules.

People can exercise at council parks and reserves in their area, but they must maintain social distancing.

The Dunedin City Council said yesterday parking in Dunedin would be free during Level 4.

Council rubbish bags will be collected on their usual days, as will yellow recycling bins. Blue recycling bins will not be collected.

Covid-19 vaccination was paused yesterday while staff rearranged clinics so that safety precautions for Alert Level 4 could be met.

Some sites will resume vaccinating today, but most would reopen tomorrow, Southern District Health Board vaccination rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said.

‘‘Some pharmacies and practices have indicated they are able to deliver their vaccines safely under Level 4 restrictions tomorrow, and we will contact those people who can be accommodated by these providers directly.

‘‘The mass vaccination sites in Dunedin and Invercargill will be closed tomorrow [Thursday] and reopen on Friday.’’ — Additional reporting Grant Miller and Mike Houlahan

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