Coronavirus: What farmers need to know

Coronavirus – it’s the topic every news outlet, social media channel and radio station is discussing at the moment. And, with the announcement of cases now here in New Zealand, discussion has turned to the potential far-reaching implications the virus, officially dubbed Covid-19, could have for New Zealand’s economy.

Here at The Regions, we’ve been following the development of Covid-19 closely. Our country’s reliance on loyal, hardworking migrant farmworkers means any border closures or delays in immigration, could affect all of us.

Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at present, but we do need to understand and make our best estimates for what the widespread implications of Covid-19 could be.

Potential impact of coronavirus on immigration

Media reports have advised that Covid-19 could delay the visa assessment process.  Immigration New Zealand has informed us that we could expect future delays from 10 days to up to six weeks over the next few months.

We are in touch with Immigration New Zealand on a weekly basis so will be aware should this situation change. At present, we have not experienced any major delays at Immigration New Zealand.

However, the Philippine Government (POEA) who process exit visa’s and the Immigration New Zealand Manila branch will almost certainly be affected by staff absences and general distraction amidst news of the virus. These factors could cause delays in the future and we will be monitoring this closely.

If you are recruiting for farmworkers in the coming months or if you are renewing your visa, please work with your Key Account Manager and Pastoral Care Coordinator to ensure we have all the information and paperwork required to submit a complete application. This will help ensure the process is conducted as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Could coronavirus impact travel?

We advise against leaving New Zealand at this time for all non essential travel.  However,  if you or your staff have urgent travel plans in the coming weeks, please first check the Safe Travel New Zealand website for their travel recommendations in regards to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

The New Zealand health system is among the best in the world, and is likely able to deal with medical emergencies more effectively than some other countries. At the time of writing this article there are 35 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in The Philippines, hence our advice that it is best practice not to exit New Zealand for non-essential travel.

Here at The Regions, our team are aware of the travel restrictions the New Zealand Government has put in place.  It is well-documented that travel restrictions are now in place for some foreign travellers, primarily from China and Iran.

This position is currently being reviewed every 48 hours and it remains to be seen how long the travel restrictions will remain in place, and if they will be widened. The situation is fluid, so expect things to change day-by-day.

Information for employers about coronavirus

It is only natural that your staff may be worried about Covid-19, particularly for family members overseas. We recommend you provide them with information on Covid-19, which is easily accessible on the Ministry of Health’s website.

As an employer, you should also have a Covid-19 plan which outlines the steps you would take should you or any of your staff come into contact with a carrier of Covid-19. This plan should explain how to go about self-isolation and how to receive medical help. It is a legal obligation for employers to help protect staff from contracting the virus. More information is available on the WorkSafe New Zealand’s and the NZ Health-lines websites.

The Ministry of Health are advising people who have developed symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath to seek medical advice by phoning Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453.

One of the best and simplest pieces of advice to combat Covid-19 is to wash hands. Please ensure your staff understand the importance of this and to let you know if they feel unwell. We will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation in the coming weeks and keep you informed via our Facebook page.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Key Account Manager or your Pastoral Care Coordinator. 

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