Ngāti Manawa has set up community checkpoints in an attempt to keep COVID 19 out of Murupara. Two checkpoints have been set up at both entrances to the small rural community where trained volunteers are collecting data on who comes and goes. Pem Bird says:
"We need to protect this town. We need to protect everyone that lives here."
The people and leadership of Ngāti Manawa, the Police, and Civil Defense are working together to protect this community. Muriwai White says:
"Due to the size of our region, people go around for no reason."
Waimatao Murphy adds, "It's people that come in from outside. The tourists."
Pem Bird explains that the ban on outsiders coming into the town is that there is only police officer in Murupara.
42 local volunteers work day and night to service the checkpoints. Muriwai White explains what they hope to achieve:
"This is not a roadblock, but a way of educating drivers and those that are entering the town."
All vehicles are placed on a register. The majority belong to locals. So Muriwai White has a word of caution for her town:
"Don't come out of the house for any reason, except if you need food. Come out only for food. Get your food, get back home."
But not everyone in the town agrees. There are only three doctors in the whole region and five nurses. As a result, Murupara has the worst health statistics in the nation. Dr Britta Noske explains:
"We’ve got a high proportion of people with lots of core morbidities. Lots of heart decease. Lots of diabetes, a fair amount of obesity. Lots of respiratory illnesses."
It's easy to see why Dr Noske is extremely concerned about what would happen if COVID-19 came to this community.
"We could see many deaths in this community, would be the reality," Dr Noske concludes.