New Zealand paralympian Jesse Reynolds is among hundreds of Aucklanders on the verge of homelessness or unemployment after being unable to leave the city under level 3 restrictions.
Yet there could be a glimmer of light for Reynolds and others hoping to leave Auckland to relocate to other cities or start new jobs after the Government today announced it is considering easing some restrictions on Monday.
Reynolds recently featured in two swimming finals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics after earlier making waves at the 2016 Rio games by competing with a broken leg.
But he had always planned to move with partner Grace Mayer out of Auckland back to their hometown of Hamilton once the games were over.
“We are going to live with our parents until we can buy our first home because buying in Auckland is not really a happening thing,” Mayer said.
However, a last-minute change to lockdown rules means people now cannot leave the city for a level 2 region even if they have new homes and jobs to go to.
“We packed up all our stuff into our cars and into a trailer and headed out only to get to the border and get turned away,” Mayer said. “It is a bit of a shock for us as we were not aware of why or how the rule had suddenly changed.Apparently we’re homeless now.”
Under previous level 3 lockdowns, people had been allowed to leave Auckland to permanently relocate to other regions in less restrictive lockdowns, provided they had a recent negative Covid test result.
But Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson yesterday confirmed the system had been hastily changed during this outbreak at the time Auckland shifted to level 3.
“This is because we are dealing with the Delta variant, which we know is far more transmissible,” he said at Friday’s 1pm Covid press briefing.
“The advice from our public health officials is that we do need to continue to take a precautionary approach.”
Yet Robertson also acknowledged the strain it was placing people under.
Hundreds of Aucklanders had earlier been waiting for the change out of level 4 so they could leave the city to finalise paperwork on house sales or to start new jobs in other cities.
In some other cases, carers who have finished caring for a person have also been stuck in the city unable to leave to go home.
“We recognise that the longer the restrictions are in place the more challenging it is for people to meet deadlines such as the settlement of house sales or the starting of new jobs outside the region,” Robertson said.
He said that is why Government ministers will work with Ministry of Health officials to review the personal and business travel exemptions system with a view to making one-way movement into and out of Auckland easier.
“Ministers will consider this advice on Monday and we will announce any changes as soon as possible given the pressure we know some people are under,” Robertson said.
Mayer said she and Reynolds had their fingers crossed.
“It was pretty heartbreaking getting all the way to the border knowing we are actually closer to our parents’ house in Hamilton than our flat in the North Shore,” she said.
“We had to call them and say we are kind of homeless now.”
The pair have had to camp out on the floor of their former flat for two nights but that cannot last as their former room has been taken by the next flatmate and the place is now crammed.
Many of their belongings are also outside in their cars.
Both have had recent negative Covid tests, are fully vaccinated and willing to isolate in Hamilton if needed.
“This rule is unfair and unjust and seemed to change overnight,” Mayer said.
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