Challenge for us all

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RICHARD DAVIDSON and JACK CONROY

Clutha’s communities prepared themselves for lockdown this week following the Government’s dramatic announcement of stringent new anti-Covid-19 measures on Monday.

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought the nation immediately to alert level 3 and announced highest-possible level 4 would apply from today, residents reacted with a mixture of concern and can-do spirit.

Leading the charge was Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, who threw down a challenge to South Otago to adopt a wartime footing, and become nosier neighbours.

Mr Cadogan said his “Clutha Cooee” campaign was inspired by World War 1 marches, where the cry was used to rally New South Wales recruits from towns on the way.

He encouraged residents to make safe contact with their neighbours, exchange phone numbers and set up steps for supportive action, such as co-ordinated shopping.

“Today I’ll be contacting neighbours over the fence with a ‘cooee’, checking in with them that they’re OK and, particularly if they’re vulnerable or self-isolating, whether they need anything like groceries, essential medicines or other supplies.

“I’d like to see everybody throughout Clutha doing this twice a week as we move forward, over the fence or by phone.”

Also on Monday, the council took steps to close all public facilities, including libraries, swimming pools, iSites and service centres, at least until the four-week lockdown is scheduled to end on April 23.

Core essential services such as drinking water and wastewater provision would be maintained.

The district’s schools — which close for four weeks from today — contacted pupils and families to establish remote-learning systems.

In a newsletter on Tuesday, South Otago High School said its teachers would use “a variety of strategies” to deliver lessons.

Normal timetables would be maintained and school holidays would run from March 30 to April 14.

Organised sports and those requiring interaction also took a hit this week, as the shutdown curtailed seasons and closed clubs.

Government advice suggested options such as individual walks, running and dog-walking remained open to the public, subject to strict observation of social distancing of 2m or more.

All businesses save for those providing “essential services” were also required to close.

Supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open, under strict monitoring.

However, Raj Indian Restaurant owner Hem Raj Chandel, of Balclutha, spoke for many when he said he believed the extreme measures were necessary to halt the virus in its tracks.

“Health is important. Money is not everything, you know?” Mr Chandel said.

“It’s good for people to stay home if it means they will be safer.”