Justin Latif takes the temperature of his community in South Auckland, ground zero for the latest Covid-19 outbreak.
Following the prime minister’s announcement on Tuesday evening, my messenger app began pinging with pictures and videos of people at the supermarket. But it wasn’t panic buying that I was seeing, rather there was a sense of gritted determination mixed with grim disappointment as people came to terms with a return to lockdown.
Tuesday night is pay day and for many who live from pay cheque to pay cheque working in casual jobs, shopping before lockdown takes on the added pressure of knowing the food will have to possibly last beyond the next fortnight, depending on how workplaces are impacted by this latest set of restrictions.
I ventured out myself on Wednesday morning, to get a Covid-19 test, since I’ve been recovering from a cold for the last few days. Despite my early start, I hit traffic deadlock about 1km from the entrance to the testing station in Wiri and over the next hour my car crawled forward a few metres at a time. When I finally entered the testing carpark, past a number of political hoardings with Hannah Tamaki’s resolute grin, I was told it would be a further three hours for a test.
I quickly discovered that there’s nothing like a long queue to help kick a mild cold and so I exited, passing Bishop Brian Tamaki conducting a video interview on the berm outside the testing station. His brilliant white teeth gleamed in the cold morning light, and I couldn’t help wonder if having over 500 cars circulating past his offices would be good for his wife’s political aspirations.
Given the latest cases have come from South Auckland, it’s no surprise so many are flocking to be tested.
Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board’s Apulu Reece Autagavaia, who is also a member of the Counties Manukau DHB, says South Aucklanders are particularly nervous about this outbreak.
“We dodged a bullet last time but this time it’s in our community, the most vulnerable, high risk community,” he says.
Auckland councillor for the Manukau ward Fa’anana Efeso Collins says people are also anxious about their work situations.
“I know our community will be feeling nervous right now, not just about the virus, but how this will impact their jobs and livelihoods. Workplaces around my ward are already feeling the pinch and I know people will feel the pressure to keep going to work despite the lockdown announcement. There needs to be clear direction from the government that jobs will be protected and staff won’t be forced to use their leave allowances as happened for many during the last lockdown.”
During level four Mangere’s Community Covid Response Team helped get food deliveries to the elderly and ensure the homeless could access support services with donated phones. Team lead Toni Helleur says this time around her group are in an even better place to support people.
“Since the first lockdown to now, we’ve been working really hard to get our systems and processes in a better place, so if there was a second wave we would be able to be a lot more responsive and a lot more ready to provide service and support,” she says.
“And I know other organisations have been doing the same, like the food bank based at Nga Whare Waatea Marae has now set up a 0800 line and so they are able to provide support in a much more streamlined way.”
Fitz runs a Māngere-based barbershop called twosevenfive. To ensure he could keep paying the rent during the first lockdown, he found a mask supplier on the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba and it was an immediate hit with locals.
“We needed to generate some money, so I found of supplier of masks, and that pretty much kept us going,” he says.
“We sold about 900 in the first month but it has slowed down in the last two months. But with what’s been happening in Melbourne, we’ve been getting people messaging for them. They have become a bit of fashion statement as people love to represent their community.”
Along with his barbershop business and merchandising, he also runs a mentoring programme for young people referred from Oranga Tamariki, so he’s also spent the morning prior to the official beginning of restrictions contacting the young people to reassure them.
“Our business is all about being responsive to our community’s needs. I know for the young guys we mentor, they won’t understand why this lockdown is happening so my message for them and everyone is just stay respectful and stay connected.”