COVID-19: Village lock-down to remain until country is at Level 2

Kerikeri Retirement Village will maintain the lock-down of its Care Facility and premises when New Zealand moves to Level Three on Tuesday next week, chief executive Hilary Sumpter said today. The move is at the directive of the Ministry of Health. It is aimed at reducing to the greatest possible extent the risk of COVID-19 infection among Village residents, particularly the 66 people who live in the facility’s rest home, respite, hospital and dementia care wings.

“The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health were very clear that we are not yet out of the woods as regards COVID-19 and that Level Three will be simply a waiting room while health officials assess the effectiveness of our war on the virus,” said Ms Sumpter.

“Under Level Three some economic activity will be allowed and bubbles can be only slightly expanded. Sadly for the families of those in our care this slight expansion of bubbles does not extend to unlocking the doors of our Care Facility.”

She assured the families of the 66 people in the Kerikeri Retirement Village Care Facility that morale was high behind the locked doors. Some had been through World War Two and had memories of restrictions and rations. Dedicated staff were coordinating games, sing-alongs, reading sessions and other activities to keep the residents occupied.

“The beautiful people who live in our Care Facility are missing visits by friends and family, for sure, and the number of faces they see each day has reduced dramatically since we went into lock-down on 23 March. But the wonderful staff who work there each day ensure that they enjoy, if anything, a greater level of attention, activity and stimulation than they would be getting normally.”

Ms Sumpter said Kerikeri Retirement Village had enjoyed support for its lock-down policy from families of those in the Care Facility and understanding from those living in the Village

“There have been a few disappointments around not being able to even serenade a loved one through a closed window but, by and large, people have been understanding of our need to eliminate all but the most essential traffic into the Village.”

Ms Sumpter said the particular vulnerability of aged care facilities had been highlighted by the high-profile clusters of COVID-19 cases in rest-homes in Christchurch, Napier and Auckland.

“No-one wants a repeat in Kerikeri of those tragedies. So if disappointing a few people is the price we must pay then it’s a price I am more than comfortable with.”

Instead of visits, Ms Sumpter encouraged families to keep in touch with their loved ones through emails, phone calls, and video-call services such as Whatsapp, Messenger and Zoom.

“We facilitate this as much as possible, bearing in mind meal-times at 8am, midday and 5pm, and the fact that most of our Care Facility residents are in bed and asleep by about 8pm.”

The continued lock-down affects not only the Care Facility but the entire Village. The many Independent Living residents of Kerikeri Retirement Village are all over the age of 70, and therefore deemed to be vulnerable. Social congregating areas, events and day programmes therefore cannot be restarted until New Zealand is back at Level Two. As a result, the Village’s voluntary buddy shopping system for residents will continue.

Ms Sumpter said the Village had advised all Independent Living residents of how they will be affected by the re-introduction of Level Three on Tuesday next week, and the easing of some Level Four restrictions.

“They will be most affected by the ability of their families or close friends in the Village to expand their bubbles marginally,” Ms Sumpter said.