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We need to work together

 

The Covid-19 emergency is testing all of us in Nelson as it is throughout the world. This is a time for national and community unity. The Government’s response was too slow in January and February but has become more decisive. The closure of our borders last week and shut down this week is necessary to save thousands of kiwi lives.

My greatest frustration is people not taking Covid-19 seriously. I received many reports last week of tourists recklessly disregarding the request for 14 days of self-isolation, resulting in me pushing for closing our borders to visitors. I equally worry that people are not heeding the message of self-isolation with many people out at the weekend socialising as though life is normal.

We need to all understand exponential growth where we can quickly go from a few cases to many thousands. Too many Italians ignored this and they are now grappling with an overwhelmed health system and thousands of deaths. New York is on a similar path.

We are fortunate to be able to learn from others experiences. Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are testing more widely and enforcing isolation. We should be doing likewise.

I also share the concern of Sir David Skeggs, Otago University’s leading epidemiologist’s call for greater openness. He notes we have more information on the UK Government’s rationale for decisions than New Zealand’s. The Government has been receiving daily situation reports on Covid-19 since January but has not released them. Openness and transparency is needed.  

This crisis is a reminder of all those we depend on for providing life sustaining services. This is not just doctors and nurses, but our pharmacists, caregivers, cleaners, truck drivers, courier drivers and food suppliers. All these people need to know how appreciative we are of them continuing to work to keep us safe and well.

We need to all play our part by heeding the health advice on washing hands and staying home. We also need to recognise the economic carnage this emergency is causing for families and businesses.

The Government has rightly frozen rents. I’m calling on councils and other public agencies to freeze rates and other charges. The Nelson Council is currently consulting on rate increases of 3.7%. Council needs to recognise households and businesses are in no position to incur additional costs. I am also calling on DOC to freeze its scheduled doubling of concession charges in the Abel Tasman National Park on May 1.

I’ve responded to the need for a shopping service for isolated people by coordinating volunteers from my office. If you are stuck please phone. It’s also important I stay in touch as other needs develop. I will be doing a Facebook live session (@ Nick Smith MP) at noon each Friday to take online questions and comments from Nelson people.  

I take huge pride in the strength and resilience of our Nelson community. This is a time we need to dig deep in working together and caring for each other.

 

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