Major road entrances into Thames Coromandel/Hauraki will have Police checkpoints to ensure compliance with the Covid 19 lockdown. This has been confirmed by Julian Snowball, Waikato civil defence group manager/controller in a briefing to myself and other Waikato regional councillors today.
Mr Snowball confirmed that while the Police do not have the power under the National Emergency to impose full roadblocks, they do have the power to undertake road checkpoints to ensure compliance with the lockdown rules – in a similar manner to how Police enforce drink-driving laws with a “booze bus”.
The checkpoints have already begun. Figures from a recent checkpoint on State Highway 25 showed 25 traffic movements an hour of which 5 were in breach of the lockdown rules. Two of these breaches were for people leaving the Coromandel, and none were recorded for people trying to come to the Coromandel. Admittedly a small sample.
The precise location of the checkpoints and the randomised hours they operate will not be made public available, but Mr Snowball said these details were informed by local “intelligence”.
Mr Snowball emphasised that there was no need for the public to try and take the law into their own hands. Anyone doing so would themselves run the risk of being in breach of the lockdown rules and subject to prosecution.
I asked Mr Snowball why Waikato DHB was not releasing details of the number of cases in each District e.g. Thames-Coromandel. Many other DHB’s are providing this District data e.g. Southern DHB. He said this was been taken up at a national level to ensure consistency.
He confirmed there was no “sporadic outbreak” of Covid 19 in the Waikato. But there are two clusters – one in Matamata and another in Waikato District (a cluster is deemed to be 10 or more cases which are connected). Not all the cases in the Matamata cluster were from that township. Many were from other places.
He also noted that the Waikato was one of three regions which had higher numbers of cases overall and sounded a note of caution as to when the Waikato or parts of the Waikato might come out of Level 4 controls.
Central government will be making decisions in the next two weeks on which parts of the country might be able to step down to Level 3. Given that there were two clusters in the Waikato it is entirely possible (but not certain) that some Districts in the Waikato may be required to remain in Level 4 lockdown longer than the current four weeks.
His other key message was that areas such as Thames Coromandel which relies heavily on tourism locals should consider presenting a kind and welcoming approach to visitors as these areas will depend usually on domestic tourism as the restrictions start to ease.
Denis Tegg – Waikato Regional Councillor for Thames Coromandel