Horizons Regional Council activates Emergency Coordination Centre for regional response to COVID-19

The Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MWCDEM) Group has activated to respond to the national COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown that started last night at 11.59pm.

MWCDEM Group controller Craig Grant says while the Ministry of Health is the lead agency for a pandemic response, civil defence has a role to play in ensuring all responding agencies are connected.

“As MWCDEM Group lead, Horizons will provide regional coordination and support to all relevant agencies within the region,” says Mr Grant.

“For the Horizons Region this includes four district health boards – MidCentral, Whanganui, Lakes and Waikato – the region’s city and district councils, emergency services, and government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development.

“This morning we are assessing the latest information and putting our response plan into action.”

The ECC is based in the Te Ao Nui building in Palmerston North and is staffed by Horizons and civil defence staff from across the region.

“Everyone in the team has defined roles and we have been working to ensure that we are able to sustain the operation over a long period of time if necessary. This includes having two different ECC teams to ensure we can isolate any infection should that occur.

Mr Grant says while there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Horizons Region, the community can be assured of local preparedness.

“This includes determining what resourcing we may need for a welfare response,” says Mr Grant.

“In addition to activating the ECC, Horizons has been assessing our business continuity plans for a pandemic.

“We have also ensured we have capacity to resource any other civil defence emergency such as a flood or earthquake during this period.

Horizons transport manager Mark Read says passenger transport services remain in place with full bus timetables operating today.

“Buses are available for essential workers and access to essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies only,” says Mr Read.

“We are assessing a possible reduction in services for the remaining lockdown period and will put out further information today.”

Mr Grant says other than the first ECC team, the rest of Horizons staff are working from home.

“We understand this threat of the Delta variant has caused some anxiety in our community and strongly encourage people to adhere to the lockdown rules, and keep practicing good hygiene practices to do all that we can to keep it out of our region. 

“All of Government’s dedicated Unite Against Covid-19 website contains the most accurate and up-to-date information for New Zealand and is the best place for people and business owners to learn more about this latest outbreak.

“Our Civil Defence Manawatū-Whanganui Facebook page will share these national messages as well as more specific regional messages for those that wish to get updates.

“The most important thing to remember is we’re all in this together, collectively we can slow the spread.”