Thames/Coromandel retailers fear Covid connection

Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie put the mental strain of a lockdown on par with the economic hit businesses feel. Photo: Kelly Hodel/Stuff.

Thames retailers are bracing for the possibility of Covid-19 being traced to their town following news of three confirmed cases in nearby communities.

Waikato District Health Board is asking Kaiaua, Whakatīwai, Mangatangi and Maramarua in Hauraki to take extra precaution as public health officials investigate the confirmed cases.

Three household members of a remand prisoner with Covid-19 were confirmed as testing positive for the virus. Two of the three household members attended Mangatangi School on the Hauraki Plains.

Director-General of Health Ashely Bloomfield has asked people in those communities to self-isolate for five days for intensive testing and contract tracing to determine the scale of the virus spread.

Auckland will move to level 3 on Tuesday at 11.59pm for at least two weeks and the rest of the country will stay at level 2.

Many people living in the towns under investigation had been making the 30-minute trip east through to Thames for shopping because Pukekohe, which was closer, was out of reach over the Auckland boundary.

Thames Goldfields Shopping Centre manager John Freer says people around town are worried after hearing news of the confirmed cases.

“We can’t deny that people are concerned because we have seen the trend that rather than go to Pukekohe, people have been coming across to Thames.”

Freer says the town “dodged a bullet” when two cases were reported in the Coromandel in August, kicking off this year’s level 4 lockdown.

No new cases have been traced to the district and people hope that would be the case again.

But the shopping centre’s 22 shops has protocols in place to switch alert levels if needed.

“The shop managers are conditioned to work in the alert levels and so are the shoppers really, they come in with their masks on and everyone knows what to do.”

Freer described the situation as “a really unfortunate case” that had put everyone at risk, not only their health but the commercial viability of the town’s retail sector as well.

Thames Business Association chief executive Sue Lewis-O’Halloran​ says she knows of one business owner who lived in Mangatangi and would not be able to return to her shop on Tuesday.

“She is waiting to hear if her business will have to shut down this week or whether it can be run by others.

“There could quite possibly be other people in the same situation but I’m not aware of any at this stage.”

Lewis-O’Halloran​ says businesses in the town are resilient but tired of alert levels and lockdowns.

“Until the country reaches 90 per cent vaccination we are going to go through this week after week.”

Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie says she plans to hold an audio-visual meeting with the district’s emergency management team to discuss the Government’s alert level changes and the new cases in the nearby communities.

“Then we will be able to make some decisions and we can pass that information on to the community.”

Goudie says there is a strong link between Thames and the communities the district health board is investigating.

“I do know people who live in those communities and I have been in touch with them. They are doing fine.

“The moment the error was made [the man on remand allowed to leave Auckland] people swung into action to take precautions.

“People are quite cautious but when an event like this happens within your own orbit, you become even more cautious.”

Goudie hopes the quick response will mean the district will escape another harsh lockdown.

“It’s a balancing act to control the spread of the virus but at the same time you ruin your economy.

“I would put the mental difficulty dealing with a lockdown on the same level as the economic hardship businesses feel.”

-Stuff/Lawrence Gullery.

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