Covid case puts Raglan businesses on the alert

With Raglan in the spotlight for COVID-19 cases, local businesses are grappling with the fallout as they shut the doors to school holiday trade.

The two initial Waikato cases were reported nearly two weeks ago – one in Hamilton’s eastern suburbs and one in Raglan – and that number continues to grow as more close contacts test positive for the virus and more locations of interest are confirmed.

One of the first locations of interest was Aroha Sushi, where a staff member tested positive and all staff are being tested and are in 14-day isolation. They have all returned negative Day 1 and Day 5 results.

Owner Maki Nishiyama says the cases in Raglan have been a wake-up call for her and the community.

“This is a big kick up the arse for us. I was quite sensitive about it (COVID). I would always wear my mask. Then I would go to places and no-one was wearing one, and I would feel bad and take it off.”

With the government’s moving away from its elimination strategy, Maki says, Covid is here to stay in New Zealand, and it is important for people to make mask wearing and contact tracing part of their daily routine.

She hopes to have some guidance from government to help businesses determine how they could operate and what expectations there were for staff and customers in the coming months.

“Having some certainty about how to keep our staff and customers safe is important to us.”

Hartys Fishing and Hardware owners Richard Hart and Wendy Macdiarmid are both currently in isolation after becoming a location of interest.

The shop remains open, Richard says, thanks to friends temporarily taking over the helm. 

He says most of their customers have been masked up and they have masks to provide to people who forget to bring a mask.

“We were in the Mount (Mt Maunganui) recently and we couldn’t believe the relaxed nature of cafes and restaurants. I understand masking up when you walk in until you’re seated but there were zero people even approaching the cafes wearing masks. And when we came back to Raglan it was the polar opposite, everyone was wearing masks. So as much as there’s a minority of people not masking up when they should be, I believe Raglan is doing pretty good.”

Open for business since April, Richard says they were just beginning to find their feet when the Delta variant hit New Zealand and plunged the whole country into Level 4.

“The level of trading is not where it was a couple of months back. We’d just got those one-off costs setting up a business behind us.” 

It was a close call for Xtreme Zero Waste with a staff member testing positive but not being at work when they were infectious.

Despite this, general manager Dallas Butler says all staff were advised to be tested and have all come back with negative results.

The site will stay closed until Alert Level 2, and rubbish and food waste collections will be at a minimum of two a week.

“We’re minimising our contact times for staff and that will be regardless of if we drop a level.”

Dr Mike Loten from Raglan Medical emphasised the impact the outbreak has had on the local health centre as well.

“We have had up to eight staff away on some days due to illness or self-isolation, meaning many of us are forced to work from home to continue providing a service,” he said.

Waikato District Council Raglan councillor Lisa Thomson, who has been on site at the vaccination and testing sites, is pleased with the response from the community so far.

“We’ve got a fantastic opportunity on our doorstep to be vaccinated and tested without judgement by fantastic teams of people. I really encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated not only for yourself but for your whānau and your community, so over time we can get back to some semblance of normality.”

Vaccinations available on Friday 15 and Saturday 16, 10am-3pm at the Raglan Rugby Grounds. No booking required.

By Janine Jackson