A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Majority of Marlborough Covid cases recovered

Most people who caught Covid-19 in Marlborough have now recovered.

Latest figures from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board show that as of today, 43 people across both regions have recovered from the virus.

For the eleventh day in a row, there have been no new or suspected cases of the illness.

The total number of new and probable cases in New Zealand today is nine taking the tally to 1440.

The Ministry of Health defines a recovered case as someone who has been symptom free for at least 10 days since they first started showing signs of infection.

Over the weekend 54 people were triaged at a Community Based Assessment Centre in Blenheim and swabs were taken from 49 people.

The Government is expected to announce a decision over whether New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3 at 4pm today.

MP Stuart Smith has launched an online petition to help save Sounds Air. Photo: Supplied

Stricken airline’s online support as MP joins funding battle

Marlborough’s stricken regional airline is being backed by the community in a bid to help save it from receivership.

Sounds Air bosses are not eligible to any of the Government’s $600 million rescue package set aside for the aviation sector amid Covid-19 lockdown.

Now MP Stuart Smith has started an online petition calling for immediate financial help.

He says the company has a big role to play in helping the region recover after lockdown as well as playing a vital role in providing essential transport links.

“I was deeply concerned to hear that Sounds Air risks going into receivership because they have not received any financial support from the Government’s aviation sector support package.

“When restrictions are eased, we will need Sounds Air to ensure people living in regional New Zealand can get to where they need to go.

“I’m calling on the Government to immediately provide the financial support that this highly reputable business needs so we can save jobs and maintain our essential transport links,” Stuart says.

Money from the government’s $600m aviation support package has been spent on keeping freight and lifeline links running.

Sounds Air connects Wellington to Picton, Nelson and Blenheim, and flies other routes Air New Zealand pulled out of over the years but is not considered an essential service.

Managing director of Sounds Air Andrew Crawford says he is making every effort to keep his airline afloat but is being met with brick walls.

Eighty employees face losing their jobs if the company has to close.

Stuart says the business cannot be let go without a fight.

“Some businesses are just too important to let fail. Sounds Air will be an important player in the economic recovery of regional New Zealand and our aviation sector.”

The petition has already been signed by almost 2500 people.”

To sign the petition visit https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-transport-save-sounds-air-make-the-government-provide-financial-support-to-an-essential-nz-airline?recruiter=1078209202&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Higher than safe levels of toxins in shellfish have been found in Croisilles Harbour. Photo: Supplied.

Toxic shellfish warning

An alert over toxic shellfish in Croisilles Harbour in the Marlborough Sounds has been issued today.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has issued a public health warning people not to collect or eat shellfish which, in extreme cases, could kill.

And anyone looking to boost their lockdown menu runs the risk of becoming severley ill.

People should not risk harvesting or eating shellfish in the Croiselles Harbour area. Photo: Supplied.
People should not risk harvesting or eating shellfish in the Croiselles Harbour area. Photo: Supplied.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from this region have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins to be at dangerous levels.

Pāua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut.

Symptoms typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and hands and feet.

Difficulty breathing, dizziness, vomiting and respiratory failure can follow.

A spokesman says anyone becoming ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued needs urgent medical attention.

“Phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16 or seek medical attention immediately.

“You are also advised to contact your nearest public health unit and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.”

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon organsiers Chris Shaw and Anna Polson have cancelled next year's event. Photo: Supplied.

Future of famous Marlborough marathon in jeopardy

Money woes have forced organisers behind one of Marlborough’s most famous races to pull the plug, with it’s long term future now uncertain.

The Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon has been cancelled for next year with promoters blaming the Covid-19 crisis for the change of heart.

Entrants will be refunded $30 from the average ticket of $99 as funds have already been spent preparing for this year’s race.

It has been an agonising decision to make, say co-ordinators Chris Shaw and Anna Polson who revealed refunding the entire fee would force the event into bankruptcy.

The pair have event insurance but pandemics are specified in the policy as non-payment events.

“We’ve put a lot of love and dedication into getting the race where it is today, and personally we’re devastated that our efforts have come to this. There have been some emails accusing us of being greedy and that makes me feel personally hurt.

“We’ve tried to be a generous member of the community and set out to give value back to the community. We haven’t just changed overnight.”

“We were hoping the event could take place in May 2021, but that’s not guaranteed by any means with the future of mass gatherings and events being so uncertain. We’re doing a good job at erradicating it [Covid-19] but,looking forward, we couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that we can hold it next year and to start preparing would be irresponsible, Chris says.

The event was originally postponed just days before lockdown officially begun.

All entries were transferred to a rescheduled race in May 2021 but that has now been shelved.

“We can’t be certain that the Vineyard Half planned for May 2021 will be able to go ahead either, so we will soon begin processing refunds to everyone who has entered this year’s event.

“We have agonised over the best process to refund and looked at the range of responses from other events.  We’re uncomfortable with the ‘refund nothing’ model, and ‘refund everything’ would simply bankrupt us; meaning you get nothing, and the Vineyard Half no longer exists,” Chris says.

All merchandise will be completely refunded, and organisers will donate any refunds not taken to race charity Bowel Cancer NZ.

The 14-year-old event has attracted thousands of people to the region and is a crucial way for Bowel Cancer NZ to raise funds.

Chris says he knows the lockdown has had an affect on the whole community.

“This has been an incredibly stressful and difficult time for us.

“We know everyone out there will be affected by this pandemic, so we hope you’ll understand how and why we’ve had to make this difficult decision.”

 

This year's Anzac Day service will be different from any previously held. Photo: File

Driveways at dawn plea to honour Anzacs

People are being urged to pay tribute to veterans on Anzac Day by joining in a dawn commemoration with a twist.

For the first time in history, Anzac Day services across New Zealand have been cancelled; falling foul of the threat of Covid-19.

Marlborough RSA is calling for people to still mark the moment on 25 April by standing at letterboxes, front doors, and driveways in tribute.

With the backing of the national RSA and NZ Defence Force, the Stand at Dawn initiative is a chance for the community to honour those that fought.

Marlborough RSA President Chris Bamber whole-heartedly supports the call.

“I know many of our veterans were upset that they could not stand with their comrades, friends and family to commemorate Anzac Day.

Marlborough RSA is encouraging veterans to wear their medals as normal. Photo: File.
Marlborough RSA is encouraging veterans to wear their medals as normal. Photo: File.

“I will be standing proudly at the end of my driveway, remembering our fallen, our veterans and our serving Defence Force personnel while also thinking of my family members who have passed that I can no longer stand beside in support on Anzac Day,” she says.

Marlborough RSA has been on hand throughout lockdown to offer help to members when needed.

Chris says she has been encouraged by the level of community support evident.

“Once again it shows how we all come together when needed in adverse situations.

“While our welfare team are assisting some members, on the whole most members have good support in place.

“I am encouraged by the level of support given to our vulnerable members by their neighbours, friends and families making sure they have groceries, prescriptions, social contact etc. ensuring they stay safe in their homes.”

Veterans are encouraged to wear their medals as they normally would.

Tune into Radio New Zealand on either their AM or FM frequencies, listen live on the internet or on your phone for the official dawn service broadcast commencing at 6:00 am.

The morning service includes:

– The Last Post

– Ode of Remembrance in Te Reo & English

– National Anthems

– Address by Hon. Ron Mark, Minister of Defence / Minister for Veterans

Student Volunteer Army lead picker Alison Faulls will coordinate the volunteer shoppers in Marlborough. Photo: Matt Brown.

Student army wages war against virus one trolley at a time

Volunteer shoppers have mobilised in Marlborough in a bid to provide help for the elderly and infirm.

A shopping and delivery service for over 65’s, the medically vulnerable and healthcare workers, staffed by Student Volunteer Army volunteers, launched in the region today.

Student Volunteer Army lead picker Alison Faulls says they’ve had a great response from the community.

“We currently have 9 fully registered volunteers from a range of backgrounds, with the interview process ongoing,” Alison says.

Orders are placed online through the SVA website, then volunteers in full PPE pick the groceries at New World, which opens early especially for the volunteers, before delivering them to the door.

Consideration is given to those who are otherwise vulnerable on a case by case basis.

It is a completely contact-free process.

“We have to follow all the procedures staff at New World do,” Alison says.

Alison, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment policy advisor, communicates with volunteers and the supermarket to ensure orders are picked up and meet the requirements of their customers.

“I’m the first point of contact for ensuring everything goes to plan,” she says.

Founded as a response to the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes the Student Volunteer Army work to provide community-based solutions and connection.

“I was drawn to the sense of community and the projects SVA ran, and volunteered with them from 2012 through to 2016,” Alison says.

Studying a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering Management at University of Canterbury, Alison served as an SVA executive for her final two years and says she’s excited to be a part of the initiative in Marlborough.

“We’ve had some great buy in from the high schools here and I’ve heard the head students have been encouraging others to get involved.”

Founder Sam Johnson says this is humanity at its best.

“We have been astounded with the response to what we are doing, from those willing to join the SVA as volunteers, the individuals in the community that require our service, and also the general public sentiment who recognise the support we are providing for the most vulnerable.

The service will continue for as long as is required.

SVA Grocery orders can be placed at www.shop.sva.org.nz and volunteers can register to help at www.sva.org.nz.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

No new Covid-19 cases in Marlborough for seven days

Marlborough is now marking a week without any new or probable cases of Covid-19.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed there are just 15 new cases of the virus confirmed nationwide today.

A Nelson Marlborough Health spokesperson says there have been no new or probable cases in Nelson or Marlborough.

Twenty people visited a Community Based Assessment Centre yesterday and 19 swaps were taken.

Today, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 30.

Ashwood Park introduced measures to help safeguard their residents prior to lockdown. Photo: File

Urgent checks on rest home infection controls ordered

Rest home bosses are carrying out urgent infection control checks in a bid to keep Covid-19 from some of the region’s most vulnerable.

Nelson Marlborough Health staff are getting aged care facilities across the region to complete a checklist to gauge the risk of contamination.

And site visits will be carried out to see what further support is needed.

Six of the nine deaths nationwide from Covid-19 have been at a Christchurch rest home.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield launched a review of rest home facilities with confirmed Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.

General manager Strategy, Primary and Community, Nelson Marlborough Health Cathy O’Malley says she is aware of the effort staff are putting in to keeping people safe.

“Nelson Marlborough Health acknowledges the effort and expertise of aged residential care providers to keep their residents and staff safe during this pandemic,” she says.

While there have been no new Covid-19 cases for a week in Marlborough, it is essential care home providers stay vigilant, Cathy says.

Rest home managers and staff are carrying out self-assessment on infection prevention policies and practices.

The results will be carefully scrutinised and online meetings held with care providers to discuss results.

“We want to support providers to stay on top of this,” Cathy says.

“The next step will be to visit any providers as required, to assess their site and see what further support they may need.”

Deputy mayor Nadine Taylor, left, will lead the new council team. Photo: Matt Brown.

New council team to tackle Covid-19

A new council super group has been formed to help Marlborough get back on its feet after lockdown ends.

Led by Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor, The Economic Action Marlborough (TEAM) group will draft an economic recovery plan over the next month.

In a bid to help the region recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, council bosses are first looking at how big the economic impact is.

A four-stage plan is helping staff decide the best way forward.

“Council is designated as the regional lead during emergencies and COVID-19 is the biggest challenge Marlborough has faced in our lifetimes,” Nadine says.

“We’ve already announced council itself will spend over $60 million of capital expenditure in 2020-21 and similar spending over each of the next three years.”

The TEAM group looked at four phases for recovery. From the current ‘Respond’ phase dealing with the immediate lockdown issues to moving to a ‘Resilience’ phase. This will see the focus shift to maintaining cashflow and jobs.

The ‘Return’ phase will see a bid to expand services again and a final ‘Reimagination’ phase where a new normal was developed.

Nadine says council’s role is extended to support a wider recovery, working with key sectors and agencies to mitigate COVID-19’s effect on Marlborough businesses.

“Staff worked over the Easter break to bring together the TEAM group and provide the background papers.

“We’ve got a very strong group now underway on helping steer our region through the economic impacts the virus is creating.”

“We are taking particular note as we start our work on the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism and hospitality sectors,” she says.

Ongoing information on how local businesses are faring will continue to be provided by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Business Trust Marlborough.

Councillor Mark Peters told the group he was bringing together a meeting of some Marlborough accountants and lawyers prepared to provide advice and insight on business responses to COVID-19 across the region.

“The information from all these sources which now includes that welcome input from accountants and lawyers will help build a quality picture very quickly of what we are dealing with and allow us to accurately target our recovery efforts,” Nadine says.

Yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting included an update from Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Craig Churchill who says further Government support programmes would likely focus on projects that are ready to go and creating jobs while navigating through the likely impacts of COVID-19.

This could include projects that expanded social housing.

Nadine says while the TEAM group represents a good cross section, it cannot include all sectors and will be supported in its work by an Industry Advisory COVID-19 group, to be chaired by councillor Gerald Hope.

Representatives from the wine, aquaculture, forestry, tourism and farming sectors, as well as a mandated iwi representative, Port Marlborough, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Social Development have joined council in the group.

Mayor John Leggett, who sat in on yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting, says it is encouraging to see such a good group has been pulled together to face the major challenges ahead.

“We’ve all got to get behind this initiative to keep Marlborough moving,” he says.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Marlborough marks six days with no more Covid-19 cases

Marlborough is now marking six days without any new cases of Covid-19.

There are 20 new and probable cases of Covid-19 across New Zealand, taking the total to 1386.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon revealed 728 reported cases that have recovered.

The number of cases in Marlborough and Nelson is at 48, with all patients recovering in isolation at home.

As at 15 April 2020, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 29.