‘Thanks for staying home Otago’

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Civil Defence and police are thanking Otago residents for staying at home and abiding by Covid-19 lockdown rules over Easter.

Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management group controller Richard Saunders said there were very few reports of people trying to travel unnecessarily over the holiday weekend.

New Zealand is in its third week of a lockdown period in an attempt to control the number of coronavirus cases, and only essential travel is allowed.

“It has been heartening to see Otago residents really understand the importance of staying home and protecting themselves, their family and the wider community,” Mr Saunders said today.

Acting District Commander Darryl Sweeney said that police were also pleased with the compliance and continue to monitor the Southern region.

Mr Saunders also had a message of gratitude for essential workers for whom the Easter weekend was business as usual.

“The efforts of our essential workers have not gone unnoticed. Health care workers, laboratory staff, supermarkets, the transport sector, and emergency service personnel have all continued to serve and care for us over Easter, many sacrificing time with their own families.

“I’d like to thank them on behalf of Otago.”

As New Zealand continues week 3 of the Level 4 restrictions, Mr Saunders cautioned the public against becoming complacent.

“It has been encouraging to see fewer new cases of Covid-19 in the Southern DHB over the past few days, especially since we have had the highest number of cases in the country to date.

“However, we are still in Alert Level 4 and although things are going well we haven’t won yet. We don’t yet know when we will move into Level 3 and we don’t want to go backwards.

“We must continue to stick within our own bubbles and stay united in our fight against Covid-19.”

Nationally, police conducted more than 500 road checkpoints from 6pm on Thursday until 9pm on Sunday to ensure that people were following the rules and only undertaking essential travel.

“In general, Kiwis across the country got the message and they followed it, Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said today.

“However for the minority that ignored the message police were there to educate and encourage and where necessary enforce.”

While thousands of motorists were stopped, the overwhelming majority were abiding by the restrictions with only a small number of travellers turned back because their trip was deemed non-essential.

Between 6pm on Thursday and 9pm on Sunday, enforcement action was taken against 622 people for breaching either the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act or the Health Act.

Most people were issued with a warning, however 64 people will face prosecution and there were 15 youth referrals, police said.

In total since the introduction of the Alert Level 4 restrictions there have been 1205 breaches of either the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act or the Health Act.

From these breaches there have been 138 prosecutions and 1038 warnings.