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Updated 3 April 2020
It is an unprecedented time we are living in, isn’t it? New Zealand Red Cross has faced hundreds of disasters over the decades, yet the COVID-19 situation presents a new and unfamiliar challenge.
We're working as hard as possible to do everything we can to keep Kiwis safe. The work of New Zealand Red Cross covers a broad range of activities and we are very aware of the need to ensure that each one of these is carefully managed to avoid any unnecessary or unconscious risk. The way we go about our normal life and programmes at New Zealand Red Cross may be changing, but our commitment to humanity and the people we serve is no different.
Alert Level 4
- New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4 at 11.59 25 March 2020. The government is asking all New Zealanders, except those in essential service to stay at home. This is an unprecendented measure and is needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- We know that Kiwis are eager to help their communities right now. Because all our Meals on Wheels volunteers go through a stringent check for the safety and security of the people we are helping, we’re looking first to see what gaps we’re able to fill internally. We’re grateful to the many Kiwis who have reached out to help and are working hard now to identify any remaining volunteering gaps that we might be able to ask local communities to help fill.
Disaster Risk Management
- Around the country, from the cape to the bluff, our disaster response volunteers are ready to respond wherever they are needed to provide assistance. Right now in Whanganui, Red Cross team members are supporting healthcare workers at the local community-based assessment centre, where people can come if they think they are unwell, to get a check and test with minimal contact. We are also reviewing and adapting the way we work in the community, including asking our amazing team members who might be immunocompromised or over 70 years old to support us from the safety of their homes. We're also continuing to assess requests for further assistance across the country.
Red Cross Shops
- All our Red Cross Shops are now closed, as per the latest measures announced by the New Zealand Government.
- All our First aid courses are suspended. Our first aid team is liaising with the sector and agencies (including the Ministry of Education) to identify options for first aid training for the future. Clients and participants are being notified of this.
- Every day, amazing Red Cross members and volunteers are helping in our communities. It's important to us to make sure that people in need continue to receive support, while also keeping our dedicated members and volunteers, and the people they serve, safe. We have received confirmation from the New Zealand Government that Meals on Wheels is deemed an 'essential service'. We will therefore do what we can to continue the service as a way of ensuring the vulnerable people we support continue to receive meals and have some level of human interaction during this four-week period of national isolation.
Community Transport as a service provided by Red Cross is being put on hold while the country is in alert level 4. The nature of transport means people sit in close physical proximity, and the government’s directive is that only essential services should stay in operation. District Health Boards will have procedures in place to transport patients to essential appointments.
- Our Pathways to Settlement programme has just been identified as an essential service by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). We are working out how to provide safe, face-to-face support to former refugees when required. However, support from a distance is our priority to maintain the Level 4 guidelines.
- Currently, we’re focused on three main points – to ensure that all new arrivals understand the Ministry of Health COVID-19 messages, that each household has a self-isolation plan which helps them meet essential needs (this means they have enough groceries, warm clothing etc and that their social connections are established), and that each household is contacted regularly.
- Our staff and volunteers are now providing daily remote check-ins with the 358 families (1136 individuals) in eight settlement locations around New Zealand. More than 1,000 refugee support volunteers and hundreds of staff make up our migration programmes team supporting former refugees. We've been checking in with our volunteers, ensuring they’re supported and are comfortable continuing to be there for the people we help while keeping a physical distance with their family/individual. Seeing a friendly face at a time of stress and worry can make all the difference to somebody’s day, so our volunteers are encouraged to keep in contact, stop by for a wave through the window as they head to the shops, or utilise video calling when their next reach out to the family/individual. This support, although virtual, can help to alleviate the isolation many will be feeling over the next few weeks.
- Our teams across the country are also reaching out to people we are currently helping or have helped in the past, to make sure that they have the information they need in a language they can understand. Translated COVID-19 messages are being communicated to families. Delivery is through a mix of translated and/or recorded messages and individual telephone calls. Messages from the Ministry of Health have been translated by our teams, with the support of refugee-background communities, into 15 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, Kayah, Kinyarwanda, Nepali, Pashto, Rohingya, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Tigrinya,Urdu and Zolai. They are available here.
- We also know that global travel restrictions have significantly altered resettlement around the world. On 17 March 2020, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the IOM took steps to temporarily suspend refugee resettlement departures. The agencies noted that this is a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential. As the situation evolves, we’ll be working closely with MBIE to understand how these changes might affect new Kiwis.
Restoring Family Links (RFL)
- As New Zealand has moved into Alert Level 4, most Kiwis are now living in self-isolation and social interactions are affected, so Red Cross’ Health and Welfare checks services could become the only way for families to find out the health status of loved ones.
- Our Restoring Family Links service may be able to assist people whose contact with family members overseas has recently stopped due to illness or infirmity, including COVID-19, to check on their health and wellbeing.
- Red Cross’ Health and Welfare checks can be used by Kiwis who have recently lost contact due to COVID-19 and other illnesses with family members overseas, as well as people currently overseas who have lost contact with family members in New Zealand due to COVID-19 and other illnesses. A service model for domestic health and welfare requests is not within the scope of this service at this time.
- You can find more information and help here.
- New Zealand Red Cross has widespread capacity to work remotely. We were first tested in this capacity in November 2016, following the earthquake which forced us to evacuate our building. Since then, we’ve worked hard to make sure that our teams across the country have a great ability to work flexibly and remotely. With the most recent measures announced by the New Zealand Government, all our staff are now working remotely. For the ones who are unable to do so, we are looking at how or if they can support other parts of the organisation in a different capacity.
We want you to know that you can expect from us three things: transparency, kindness, and a continued dedication to do our bit as humanitarians to support people in need.
To know how you can learn, prepare and take action on COVID-19, head over to this page.