Swine Flu - Time to Prepare, Just in Case

15 June 2009

Wellingtonians should be thinking about family, friends and neighbours - and making a few commonsense preparations - as the prospect of swine flu spreading through the population increases.

That's the advice of Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, who says that if the flu spreads and means large numbers of people have to be quarantined in their homes for a number of days, then they should have plans in place so they can stay well-fed and warm.

"It'd be wise for people to possibly stock up their cupboards and freezers so there's enough food to last for at least a week.

"Either that, or people should be thinking about their family, friends and neighbours - and being ready to just go shopping for anyone who's got the flu and who has to stay in isolation.

Wellington's Civil Defence Controller, Mike Mendonca, says if people contract the flu then they will need to stay at home for at least seven days.

"Your daily routines will probably be affected. You'll need to think about how to take care of yourself and others who depend on you, and who needs to know that you are ill."

Mike says there are four things people should consider:

1. food and basic supplies

Ensure now that you have at least seven days food and basic supplies at home, or that there is someone who can get them for you. This includes baby supplies, pet supplies, tissues and toilet rolls, paracetamol or ibuprofen, cough syrup, throat lozenges etc.

2. care of dependants

You may feel so unwell that you will be unable to care for people or animals you are responsible for. You should make alternative arrangements for their care now. Ask others in your family or community, friends or neighbours to help you.

3. essential services (power, gas, phone)

Because you will be at home for a week, make sure you will have power and gas for heating your home and cooking food, and other essential items like phones. Make arrangements to cover these things now. If a bill has to be paid while you're sick, arrange for someone to go and pay it.

4. social support

You may need help from other people when you are ill. Ask your friends or family, neighbours, colleagues or community group (eg church or sports club) to help. When you recover, you can help others who are sick.

Council services and facilities

Mayor Prendergast says Council Chief Executive Garry Poole has convened a senior management team to guide the City Council's response if swine flu spreads and begins to disrupt normal daily life.

"Of course our priority will be to ensure essential services - for example water supply, rubbish collections and various services relating to health and safety - will not be disrupted if staff either get sick or have to stay away from work to look after sick dependants.

Mike Mendonca says Council managers have been asked to "get out their business continuity plans and make sure they are up to date". This includes making arrangements for staff to work from home, if necessary, and for staff to shift roles to different sections of the City Council to help keep services running.

However Mayor Prendergast says that some Council-run public facilities, for example libraries and swimming pools, could be temporarily closed if such measures can help limit the spread of the flu virus.