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Coronavirus lockdown: Essential services promise to get people through

Leaders from some of the country's essential industries are giving an assurance they will able to provide the goods and services to get people through the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Road Transport Forum says the trucking industry will step up. Photo: RNZ Insight / Tracy Neal

At 11.59pm on Wednesday, New Zealand will go into full lockdown as the country moves into Level 4 of the Covid-19 Alert system.

Only services deemed to be essential to keep the country going will continue to operate.

These include the health sector, key public services, transport providers and food producers.

Nick Leggett from the Road Transport Forum called trucking the "good cholesterol of the economy" and was an industry that would work together.

"The industry will step up, as it always does at times of crisis. We saw that after the Kaikōura earthquake and the Canterbury earthquakes.

"This time obviously is quite different to that - it's a nationwide crisis that we're facing and a challenge for all households."

Key over the coming days will be communication as the country's trucking fleet works to prioritise goods that are most in need, he said.

"This is an adaptive industry - it has to be because there are many crises and lots of changes all the time.

"For instance, [after] a train derailment trucks will be rung within minutes by people needing to shift freight.

That's what is going to happen here and it's going to require people working together, perhaps share staff or gear with other companies. But this is an industry that collaborates."

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

A spokesperson for Countdown supermarkets, Kiri Hannifin, is begging people not to panic buy.

Hannifin said the supermarket chain is selling three times as much toilet paper in a day than it would in a week - and restocking is a waste of space in trucks which could be carrying food.

"So again, it goes to our behaviour. Stop buying toilet paper. Diarrhoea is not a symptom of Covid-19, you do not need to have five months' worth of supply, it's made in New Zealand.

"Buy food normally and our trucks can be full of food."

Pharmacies are also staying open during the lockdown. Pharmacy Guild chief executive Andrew Gaudin said workers in the industry are digging deep to service New Zealand.

"Like the rest of the community, they're finding it really a chaotic and crazy time but they're doing their level best to provide a great service to people.

"They've just started the flu vaccine to get to the vulnerable population, working flat-out on that."

Gaudin said there had been some isolated instances of people panic buying items like paracetamol, and unnecessarily getting early prescriptions or medication repeats.

But the supply chain for medications was holding up and people would be able to get what they need.

Alan McDonald from the Employers and Manufacturers Association said their members would no doubt face tough days ahead, but the country's supply lines are pretty resilient.

The big questions for many companies is whether they qualify as an essential service.

"We got an inquiry from one person who manufactures parts for Fisher & Paykel's respirators. So are they essential?

"Briscoes, for example, another of our members, they sell heating and bed linen and stuff like that which, as flu season approaches, you could argue, would be an essential business. So they want some clarity around what they can and can't do."

There's no doubt farmers qualify as an essential service, and Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said that should reassure people.

"It gives confidence to the public that there is going to be plenty of food. It's a shame they've all gone out and panic bought because they don't need to do that.

"New Zealand is well placed to make sure that everybody is fed and in our economic recovery ... not everyone is in as good a position as New Zealand where we can grow all our own food plus have some to export."

Fonterra says its staff in the food supply chain such as farmers, tanker drivers, manufacturing and distribution centre employees, will also keep working.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

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