EMS prepared for potential second wave of Covid-19 infections

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DESPITE a drop-off in calls for assistance, Emergency Management Southland [EMS] staff are conscious there may be another wave if Covid-19 cases return to the south.

Since the beginning of lockdown, the EMS welfare team had worked closely with existing community organisations, including food banks and volunteer services, to provide an array of assistance to those in need.

EMS group controller Angus McKay said in the past few weeks, on average, the call centre had only received one call a day.

“The only people we are still supporting directly are foreign nationals who are here on visas and aren’t receiving support from the Government.”

Currently, there were 84 foreign nationals living in Te Anau, he said.

During the nearly three-month period of lockdown, calls for assistance had been varied and complex, he said.

EMS’ job had become more about putting people in touch with the appropriate agencies and connecting community members with those who could best meet their needs.

In terms of food bank demand, “anecdotal evidence” suggested its activity had gone back to an almost pre-Covid-19 state of operation, Mr McKay said.

However, there was no certainty about whether demand levels would remain low.

“The prime minister made it clear [earlier this week] it was likely we would see more cases, so we need to be conscious of the potential for that to happen.”

During Alert Level 2, EMS operations had reduced to solely monitoring, and staff numbers had gone back to the original team, he said.

“As the alert levels have dropped, we’ve gone back to our normal networks.

“For us, it’s about what does recovery look like now.”

While staff were positive, they were aware of the reality Covid-19 cases could start to pop up again in Southland, Mr McKay said.

“If we do get a second wave, we are prepared. The relationships we have built with other community organisations during Covid will be beneficial [if cases do return].”

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