Andy Shenk reflects on how the current outbreak is similar and different from New Zealand's previous outbreaks, as well as on UniServices is adapting.
In some ways, living in a pandemic feels like Groundhog Day. A year and a half after our first lockdown and a year after our second, Auckland is again in a major lockdown to combat COVID-19.
It’s not really Groundhog Day, though – things are different this time. First, we’ve been through this before. We know what to do. As soon as the first community case in six months was announced, UniServices began to act. We prepared quickly and moved seamlessly into Alert Level Four at midnight that night. Our essential healthcare workers had the equipment they needed and knew the procedures to safely work on the front lines. The rest of us went into our well-practiced work from home mode.
Though we have changed certain procedures to comply with public health advice, UniServices remains fully operational and is continuing its activities in safe, socially distanced ways. This includes using remote working tools and running virtual events. We have procedures in place for different alert levels and are preparing ourselves in advance of alert level shifts, with the flexibility to fine-tune if guidance changes.
The second major difference is that COVID-19 is no longer as new to us. While many questions remain unanswered, we have a much better idea of how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. Even with the arrival of the more contagious Delta variant, the public health measures New Zealand has adopted based on scientific advice are having an effect.
Third, we now have a formidable weapon in our arsenal: vaccines. We are strongly encouraging all our staff to get vaccinated. In some frontline healthcare roles, it is required. We are confidentially keeping track of our staff vaccination status to help us plan our operations with the utmost care for health and safety. Where vaccination status is unknown, we are taking the precautionary measure of assuming those staff members are unvaccinated and proceeding with due caution.
Since the pandemic began, I have seen many of our staff members at their best, meeting challenges with creativity, determination and teamwork. The UniServices team – and many of our partners – continue to exceed my expectations every day as we move forward in a work environment that’s changed but still strong.
Hope to see you soon in person when we can mingle again safely. Until then, take good care of yourselves and your whānau.