Ōtangarei prepares for level 4 lockdown

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Tomorrow Aotearoa will raise its' COVID-19 protocols to threat level 4. The small Northland community of Ōtangarei is doing all they can to ensure their community is ready for what may come next.

Flu vaccinations, help lines, homework and care packages are just some of the ways this small town is doing their best for their people.

Myles Ferris, Principal of Te Kura o Ōtangarei helped to assemble the care packages and explained why they are doing it.

“I guess there's a sense of hopelessness at a time like this.

“I wish there was more we could do more but this is one small way we can help our when out and ease the pressure on parents and whānau.”

Accessing essential services and supplies is an ongoing issue for this rural community. Locals have struggled to reach their doctors, and obtain essential medication. The Ultra-Fast Broadband (Fibre) project is far from completion so the majority of our rural towns and villages are stuck with slower ADSL or mobile services.

A local recounted her struggle to contact her doctor both online and on the phone.

“I've been trying all morning … absolutely can't get through at all and even the page.

“I think it's like that everywhere though. The phones and internet is jammed.”

Margaret Hand from local health provider Te Hau Āwhiowhio Trust highlighted some of the difficulties that her clinic is working through:

“The majority of clinics around the motu have closed and are asking people to contact them on the phone.

“Most of our patients are walk-ins, 80% of them are so to ask them to call when they may not have a cell phone can be difficult.”

Even from 2 metres apart the spirit of this community is stronger than ever.

Myles Ferris spoke of the measures his school will take to help their students:

“It's a difficult environment to provide an equitable education for all of them so we made a decision that we would focus on our traditional ways of learning.

“Pen and paper. So we're providing a lot of that.”

Te Hau Āwhiowhio is also making some huge changes to ensure the community gets the resources they need. Margaret Hand explains more.

“Working if we have to after hours and ensuring we've got our nurses, doctors and reception available.

“We're picking up medications and dropping them off twice a day."

Kaumātua are feeling the pull of anxiety with the virus but everyone is banding together against it.

“I think with isolation kaumātua and kuia will be greatly affected but we'll be ringing our kaumātua and kuia.”

Spirits remain high and this community member says containment is essential:

“I think if we keep everyone else out then I hope we'll be fine.”