Covid might be in the “rearview mirror”, but a health boss has warned against complacency moving forward.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced all pandemic-related public health orders were to end later that night, including self-isolation and mask-wearing rules.

Sue Allen, general manager of the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation, said the past three-and-a-half years had been a difficult time for many, and it was now time to look ahead.

“(The pandemic) has been really hard work, and we’re not there at the end yet, but we can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” Allen said.

“(Covid) is always there, but it’s not actually the forefront of everything we do now whereas in the past every single living, breathing moment was Covid.

“But we’ve moved on from that – we’re not living under mandates and living in the world of Covid every single day.”

Hundreds queue at the Horton Park testing centre in Blenheim in February 2022.

Stuff

Hundreds queue at the Horton Park testing centre in Blenheim in February 2022.

Allen said despite all mask-wearing rules being scrapped, some healthcare centres could choose to keep them in place to protect the vulnerable and immunocompromised.

“Winter is always a challenge, we have a lot of symptomatic people,” Allen said.

“I think this is a crucial time for the community to keep their masks on, if they’re symptomatic, just to protect others and stop the spread.

Julian Revell outside Springlands Health, where mask-wearing is still required on Tuesday morning.

Anthony Phelps/STUFF

Julian Revell outside Springlands Health, where mask-wearing is still required on Tuesday morning.

“Then as we get out of winter, I would say we’d get a lot freer, and people will be more confident with this change, but I think it will be quite a challenge to start with,” she said.

Some GP clinics in Marlborough were still asking patients to wear masks on Tuesday morning, while in others, the requirement had been lifted.

At Civic Health in central Blenheim, restrictions appeared to have ended with no notices displayed and no masks worn.

Springlands Health had kept its notice requiring masks on the door, and staff, patients and visitors were all wearing masks.

Taya Flame-Sparrow says she will keep wearing a mask to avoid catching Covid-19 and the flu.

Anthony Phelps/STUFF

Taya Flame-Sparrow says she will keep wearing a mask to avoid catching Covid-19 and the flu.

Springlands patient Julian Revell said the restrictions had to end sometime. However, as a severe asthmatic who never had Covid, and did everything possible to avoid infection, he had reservations, he said.

“Most people are responsible and will wear a mask if they have Covid or a bad flu. But others will think, ‘I’m going to do what I’m going to do’.”

If employers put pressure on sick staff to work, this risked spreading infection to everyone and businesses having too few staff to operate, Revell said.

Taya Flame-Sparrow, who had also not yet had Covid, said she would still wear a mask when out and about because she reacted badly to influenza. However, she didn’t mind if other people did not wear masks, she said.

Mayor Nadine Taylor says Covid is in the “rearview mirror”.

BRYA INGRAM/STUFF

Mayor Nadine Taylor says Covid is in the “rearview mirror”.

Springlands Lifestyle Village manager Naomi Nailor said ending the Covid-19 isolation requirements meant if a resident had symptoms, they could no longer be asked to stay in their room.

“Although if they are really sick, they will want to.”

Methods to protect residents would now be the same as other diseases such as vomiting bugs or norovirus, she said.

Te Whatu Ora continued to advise providing masks for visitors and staff to use.

Covid-related rules and regulations ruled the lives of New Zealanders for three-and-a-half years.

Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

Covid-related rules and regulations ruled the lives of New Zealanders for three-and-a-half years.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor said it was great to be able to see Covid in the “rearview mirror”.

“We know it’s still circulating in the community, and we still have to be responsible about it in our personal health response, but as a society and a community, I think it’s really great to be able to look ahead without those restrictions still being in place,” Taylor said.

She said from her own perspective, and her family’s, there had been a “quiet sense of relief”.

“If we do look back over the last three years … there’s been a lot of disruption across significant family and social events, and it’s a relief to think that we might not have to face that again.”

Changes to the Local Government Act early in the Covid-19 response allowed the council to make decisions over Zoom.

“I think that Zoom has become one of the useful tools that we’ve all adopted as part of Covid. It’s now second nature to us.

“’You’re on mute’, is a phrase that we’re all used to, and dressing up for Zoom at home.

“But it has pushed us forward on the use of those remote meeting tools, and that’s been a positive in a council sense.”

She said the community should be credited for how it pulled together.

“I think in some ways it will have strengthened us as a community.

“I’m really proud of the way Marlborough navigated those three years.”

She was also proud of how the Marlborough District Council stepped up, she said.

“We put a lot of funding into our key infrastructure, the theatre, the stadium

… community groups, sports groups to make sure that they were all able to operate through this.

“Everybody worked to sort of hold everything together at a time when we thought it might be going to fall apart. So I think that Marlborough should be proud of the way that it’s come through this.”

Pete Coldwell, chief executive of the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, said he thought the last of the Covid mandates wouldn’t be dropped until winter was over, but this week’s announcement was “good news” for businesses.

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