Shot Bro - Covid buses will start operating from this morning to boost vaccinations in harder-to-reach parts of the community.
Experts warn the only way for New Zealand to avoid lockdowns is to have at least 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated. The buses are being unveiled at Auckland Airport Park & Ride facility. The converted black and orange Park & Ride buses have vaccinate signs posted on their sides. One reads "Roll up your sleeves, Auckland". Another sign says "Vaccinate for Auckland". Labour MP Willie Jackson said the answer to boosting vaccination among Māori and Pasifika people was to enlist the help of people from within those communities.
"Our people know our people." Jackson said he was pleased to see the support at community level for vaccines.
"I'm really excited because we need to get out into these communities in South Auckland," he said. The buses would help those who may have been reticent or not had easy access to vaccines. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said: "We are taking the vaccine to the people." The aim was to get up to 80 per cent of Aucklanders having had one shot of the vaccine by the end of the week. While the current lockdown was the right decision, the country could not rely on lockdowns forever. The six buses - on loan to the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre - will act like pop-up vaccination clinics. Pukekohe is one of the first areas a bus will visit this afternoon. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week asked for names for the "Mr Whippy"-style vaccine bus service and has now narrowed it down to four favourites - Jabba Waka, Shot Bro, Jabbin' Wagon, Vaxi Taxi.
Entries are open for this year’s Sunday Star-Times short story awards.
The awards include open, emerging Māori and Pasifika writers, and under-25 years categories and will be judged by some of New Zealand’s best authors.
The winning story will be published in the Sunday Star-Times and on Stuff. Entries close Friday 22 October.
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By the time the next decision is made for the region, Aucklanders will have spent 11 weeks in either Level 3 or 4. The Level 3 and 4 lockdown between March and May last year was 52 days long. When Auckland's current restrictions are reconsidered by the Government in a fortnight, it'll be 76 days. There's little agreement on what should happen next from those in the city. "She's sort of between a rock and a hard place," cafe owner Fraser said. "Me personally, I'd have gone two weeks of Level 4 to try get [case numbers] down." "They're doing all of this from their ivory towers in Wellington. I don't think they have any idea what it's like to be locked up like this," Jo said. "Kids need to be in school... It's no good," Awan said. "I think it's the right decision. We've come so far. It's a bit disappointing - I'm quite bored and my business is suffering," said Anna. There have been 386 cases of Covid-19 in the community in the last week alone, and around 150,000 eligible Aucklanders are still not vaccinated at all against the disease. One man, Alastair, was okay with the decision to keep the status quo but he wanted to see a plan - with incentives. "I want to see people rewarded for being vaccinated. [The government's] got to move forward. We cannot keep having it moved forward... with no end point." Cafe manager Fraser said compliance was seriously falling off. "I don't think we can stay here [at Level 3] much longer. At the weekend we went for a drive, and there's a lot of people giving up paying attention now. Everyone's just doing their own thing. "If we're still shut down at Christmas, I think it's going to start getting a little bit more serious than just ignoring what we're told to do." The Government has repeatedly said high vaccination and testing rates would help towards easing restrictions. If 90 per cent double-vaccinated is what's wanted for Auckland, that could be weeks away. Auckland is 18,000 people short of 90 per cent first doses and even if all of these were vaccinated today, they would have to wait three weeks for their next one and two more weeks for full immunity. One woman Jo, who is double-vaccinated, said the extension of alert level 3 was causing resentment. "I don't think they really comprehend what it's like for the ordinary, everyday person who's caught like this, just can't do anything," she said. "Most of the people, in fact everybody I talk to, are all getting angry." On Friday the government will reveal the next phase of a Covid-19 protection plan for New Zealand with a 90 percent vaccination rate featuring prominently.
Auckland's alert level will be reassessed by Cabinet on 1 November.