Speaking from experience

    Vaccinated: Southland Chamber of Commerce president Neil McAra. Photo: Laura Smith

    THE man who was identified as the first Covid-19 case in Southland says he never had any doubt about being vaccinated against the virus.

    In March last year, the Southland Chamber of Commerce president Neil McAra tested positive for Covid-19.

    He fell unwell after returning from a business trip to Australia.

    “There was not a lot in the media at the time… I was massively surprised.

    “The impact of having it [Covid-19] is not only physical but it also has a mental health aspect as everything was so unknown, and the uncertainty about the affect in other people.”

    His biggest fear was transmitting the virus to other people.

    Now, a year later and fully vaccinated, Mr McAra has joined the chorus of community leaders urging Southlanders to be vaccinated.

    “It is critical to get our vaccination rates up quickly from the economic perspective but also for the health perspective.

    “The stats clearly show those who are vaccinated are less likely to suffer the effects of Covid-19, and it also lowers the transmission rates, which is the fundamental reason for the whole thing.”

    Many countries seemed to be “moving on” after reaching a vaccination target and he hoped New Zealand could also do so soon.

    Mr McAra could not see a reason to keep the South Island at Alert Level 2 as it had not had any cases for more than a year.

    This highlighted even more the importance of everyone being vaccinated as it seemed it was the “only way” for the region to return to its “new normal”, he said.

    “Until the Government changes the way it deals with things, and obviously they are waiting for a magical number to be high enough in terms of vaccine rates, we will have this real challenge.”

    Being a businessman with more exposure to the international community, he felt he might see the benefits of vaccination better than many in rural communities.

    He acknowledged people in the rural sector were very busy at the moment, but vaccination needed to be a priority, he said.

    “If you are sitting there on a farm in rural Southland, and don’t travel, the urgency probably is not there.

    “But it is not just about you, it is about the other 100,000 people in Southland that we need to get behind and increase the vaccination rates to ensure protection of everyone in our community.”