Prepare for alert level changes

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJanuary 29, 2021

Those who were hoping 2021 might be a better year on the Covid-19 front were sadly, wishful thinking.

We now have cases of Covid-19 found in the community in Northland and Auckland and realistically, businesses need to be prepared for some form of alert level change that will mean further restrictions.

This is not good news when the supply chain is being pulled so tight it is about to burst.

The Prime Minister has said the border will remain closed in 2021 and the Government has said when (and if) New Zealand gets the Covid-19 vaccine, it will take six months to vaccinate 5 million people – quite a lag behind the rest of the world.

With our community cases being the more contagious South African strain of Covid-19, Australia turned the tables on us and stopped quarantine-free travel on Monday – currently until Sunday, but given the new community cases this is likely to be longer.

This not only disrupts the few passengers using those flights – which have all been cancelled – it adds further strain to the supply chain with the cargo for those flights also left high and dry. If planes don‘t go out, then there is no return flight bringing goods into New Zealand. How long Air New Zealand can sustain running at a massive loss and being propped up by the Government is anyone‘s guess, but another year or two might be a big ask.

In disaster there is always opportunity, so if some other airline wants to pick up a busy freight route and cause some disruption, now‘s the time.

New Zealand remains highly reactive, with again, no real evidence of long-term disaster response plans. The Government seems largely unconcerned about the looming disaster that supply chain failure will bring.

The Government has also been caught not being open with the public about the cases in the community. They were forced into revealing the Auckland community cases after Hone Harawira alerted the media. That is unacceptable.

The only way to get on top of community transmission is immediate action. That means telling people who have been to the same places as infected people the minute they know. Withholding information threatens the goodwill of their compliant “team of 5 million”.

On the business front, it‘s a matter of being prepared. The RTF‘s Covid-19 webpage remains active and we will keep up to date information here. When the Government releases information it is available on its Covid-19 webpage here.

If Auckland and/or Northland are put into lockdown, we will continue to work with the Government and other parts of the supply chain to free up freight routes.

Truck drivers are out and about throughout the country so are at higher risk when there are cases in the community.

It may be time to remind your staff of the best hygiene practices to combat the spread of Covid-19, most importantly, staying home if they are sick. They also need to keep track of where they‘ve been (use the NZ COVID Tracer app and turn on Bluetooth); wash their hands regularly; cough or sneeze into their elbow; practice physical distancing; and clean surfaces that get touched frequently. They may have to return to wearing face masks, so make sure you have supplies.

The reality of Covid-19 is we are all at the mercy of the Government‘s response and we will deal with it as it pans out. The RTF will continue to negotiate an environment where trucks can go about the important task of carrying the economy and keeping up the flow of essentials, such as food and medicines.

Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum