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Travel crackdown - Critical now more than ever ‘to remain calm’

Police are cracking down on non-essential travel in the district and those who flout it will face the consequences.

It comes after the first case of Covid-19 in Gisborne was confirmed yesterday.

Checkpoints and random stops by police have been increased — measures aimed at “protecting our community”, says Gisborne District Council civil defence and emergency management group controller Dave Wilson.

Mr Wilson said those flouting the level 4 lockdown would face the consequences.

“All non-essential travel has to stop if we want to halt the spread of Covid-19.

“People need to understand that this virus can be transmitted as easily as picking up someone's pen, and when it takes hold it is potentially lethal to some people.”

Police are stopping cars and asking drivers where they are headed and for what reason. Those on non-essential trips are being turned around.

He urges everyone to play their part in keeping Tairawhiti as safe as possible by staying home and self-isolating.

“Be responsible about this,” says Mr Wilson. “This is about saving the lives of people in our own community.”

A Gisborne man in his 50s tested positive for the coronavirus after he returned home from the United States. He was swabbed on Thursday, March 26, at the Covid-19 testing clinic outside Three Rivers medical centre.

The unidentified man has asked his privacy and that of his whanau be respected.

“They did everything right and in doing so have protected the people of Tairawhiti,” said Hauora Tairawhiti Medical Officer of Health Dr Osman Mansoor.

The man has been in self-isolation since he returned to New Zealand on Friday, March 20, on Air New Zealand flight NZ8161 from Los Angles.

The Ministry of Health website does not give details of the domestic flight he took to Gisborne, or if he even flew.

He was one of the 85 new cases confirmed in New Zealand yesterday, bringing the total Covid-19 cases to 368 as of yesterday afternoon.

Dr Mansoor said there was still no evidence of community spread in Tairawhiti.

The man was in quarantine at home and was recovering well, he said.

“The man is well enough to stay at home and has not exposed anybody to the virus apart from close contacts who are self-isolating.

“Everyone he has been in contact with since his return is being followed up with but because he has been in self-isolation, the number is low.

“We ask everyone to be kind. The way to suffocate this virus is literally in our hands. If we don't pass it on, it will die.”

The country's alert level 4 lockdown to fight the spread of Covid-19 means only people going to and from essential services, or ferrying children between shared custody arrangements, can be on the road.

Mr Wilson said it was frustrating to see and hear some people were still not taking the stay at home warnings seriously.

“We are relying on the people of Tairawhiti to slow down the spread so our health system can cope with those who do return positive tests.

“If we can't do this, our health services will be overwhelmed. We have vulnerable people in our community and we all have a responsibility to protect them.

“These are people's aunties, uncles and grandparents. We need you to do your part to save lives.”

District council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann reiterated the importance of self-isolation.

“Be kind, stay home, break the chain and save lives.

“If you have any questions, go to our website www.gdc.govt.nz or contact customer services on 0800 653 800.”

In an open letter to the community Ms Thatcher Swann said even though it was expected Tairawhiti would need to deal with cases of Covid-19, she understood it would still be a shock to the community.

“It is critical, now more than ever, that we remain calm and stick to the advice of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Health. This is about saving the lives of people in our own community.

“I implore you to follow the instruction to stay home. This is no longer an issue that's being dealt with by someone else, “It's up to each of you to stop the spread of this dangerous virus.

“Physical isolation means exactly that. My goal is to reassure you that as a council we will continue to run essential services so you can still access the necessities of life.

“If you think it's OK to go for a surf or a mountain bike ride, think again — it's not.

“If anything were to happen to you, you would endanger the lives of all those who come in contact with you.

“If you're delivering food or essential items to kaumatua or pakeke, please make sure you stick to the rule and keep a distance of two metres apart and that you're meticulous about hygiene, particularly around handwashing.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz asked people to remain calm and continue to heed the Prime Minister's words.

“We urge everyone to stay home. This is not optional.

“The only way we will stop the spread of the virus through our community is if we all stay home and practise social distancing to ensure that the virus has nowhere to go.

“Physical isolation is critical to slow down the spread of the virus.

“Failure to do so puts our people's lives at risk.”


Checkpoint: Police stop drivers at a checkpoint in Gisborne. People are urged to avoid non-essential travel in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19. The district's first case of the coronavirus was confirmed yesterday. As of this morning, there had been 368 cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, 37 of them listed as 'total recovered'. Picture supplied

  1. Karl says:

    NZ8161 is a domestic flight number

  2. Trina says:

    Are speed cameras being used to capture the number plates of errant drivers to follow up?

  3. Lynda says:

    I applaud the police for their stance on the checkpoints for non-essential travel. I was driving one of the vehicles stopped on Saturday morning, the nice officer asked for my licence and the reason for my travel. All very fair and reasonable. However, the concerning part of this was that while this process only took some five minutes of my time, while being asked the questions, the officer took possession of my licence in his hand and took several photos of it and handed it back to me. I noted the nice officer had protective gloves on. As I drove off, I again noticed this officer and others in the same team repeat the same process with other motorists.
    Are they not putting us all at risk of transmitting the virus through this process, by not changing their gloves each time? My suggestion is to have the licence holder keep hold of their licence while the photo is taken. Simple solution that may save lives.