Last updated on 19 March 2020
There has been an influx of information on physical wellbeing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we also have to give thought to our own and others’ mental and financial wellbeing.
As a union and an affiliate to the Council of Trade Unions, we have been able to rely on their considerable efforts over the recent weeks to lobby the Government on behalf of all workers, and to get information updates helpful to us.
Below we have pulled together a range of information and links to assist you in looking after yourself and others.
DEGNZ hopes this information proves useful to you as we seek to address this constantly changing situation. We are here to help if we can. You can contact us on 09 360 2102, or by emailing Executive Director Tui Ruwhiu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ministry of Health update their webpage regularly with the latest advice, information about self-isolation, and common questions and answers about COVID-19.
Some quick pointers:
- Call your family doctor for advice or information. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 (through contact with someone who has it), it’s important to let your doctor know.
- Call Health line on 0800 358 5453 (if you’re calling internationally call +64 9 358 5453). Calls are free and someone is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call them:
- if you don’t have a family doctor
- if you’re feeling unwell but you’re not sure if you need to see a doctor
- for advice about what’s happening to you and next steps.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention early. Call Healthline or your doctor.
- Wash and dry your hands (for at least 20 seconds) frequently – Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Maintain social (physical) distancing – Maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- In an emergency, always call 111.
These are stressful times. We need to look after our mind as well as our body:
Facts minimise fear
We need to stay informed by trusted sources. “There are two sources,” explained Aiysha Malik, Technical Officer, Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, World Health Organization. “One is WHO (World Health Organization); the other is your national authority [The Ministry of Health].”
A repeated message for managing fear in the COVID-19 response is to get facts. Facts minimise fear.
Social isolation is associated with poor mental health
- Staying connected with your social and family networks via technology
- Keeping your daily routines as much as possible
- Exercising regularly and practising habits that you enjoy and find relaxing
- Seeking practical, credible information each day
Shift narratives away from number of deaths toward number of recoveries
There often seems to be a dearth of positive stories about coronavirus and those who recover.
“We’re not seeing the stories of recovery,” said Ken Carswell, Technical Officer, World Health Organization. “We need to shift narratives away from number of deaths toward number of recoveries.”
Additionally, the negative effects of stigmatising language – such as attaching region or ethnicity to the virus or blaming people for transmission – exacerbate the sense of fear at a macro level. Journalists, news outlets and everyday citizens can help to increase hope and allay fear by being cognisant of the language they use in speaking about COVID-19.
In the coming days and weeks, fear and anxiety will likely increase as our lives continue to be disrupted and social distancing becomes necessary. As a society, we must work together with a sense of empathy. As individuals, we must inform ourselves of the facts, stay connected to the people we love and be kind to each other.
Taking care of children
- Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
- Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
- Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools close, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
Seek help and professional support if you feel you are not coping
Your family doctor is a good starting point. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737. This service is free, available 24/7 and gives you the chance to talk it through with a trained counsellor.
Here’s a checklist from UK mental health charity, Mind, for preparing for a stay at home for two weeks (actor Stephen Fry is Mind’s President):
- Food: do you have a way to get food delivered?
- Cleaning: are your cleaning supplies stocked up?
- Money: can you budget for any higher bills or expenses? Will you save money from lower transport costs that you could spend elsewhere?
- Work: can you work from home or not? If not, what are your rights to payment or benefits?
- Medication: do you have enough medication, or a way to get more?
- Health: can you reorganise any planned therapy or treatments?
- Commitments: can someone else help you care for any dependents, walk your dog, or take care of any other commitments?
- Connectivity: have you checked the contact details of the people you see regularly, like their phone numbers or email addresses?
- Routine: can you create a routine or timetable for yourself? And if you live with other people, should you create a household schedule? Do you need to agree how the household will run with everyone at home all day?
- Exercise: is there any physical activity you can do inside your home, such as going up and down the stairs, using bean tins as weights, or exercises you can do in your chair?
- Nature: have you thought how you could access nature? Can you get some seeds and planting equipment, houseplants or living herbs
- Entertainment: have you thought about things to do, books to read or TV shows to watch?
- Relax: have you got materials so you can do something creative, such as paper and colouring pencils?
Most New Zealand screen workers are contractors. Even with contracts, the termination period is usually one week. You need to prepare for a downturn in work and what you will do if faced with this situation.
- Opportunities for you to gain income outside the sector with work that will not suffer in the pandemic
- Reducing unnecessary monthly outgoings or one-off expenditures
- Chasing up outstanding payments for work performed
- The Government has just announced financial assistance for businesses and beneficiaries. This includes contractors who essentially run their own businesses. You can learn more about this at Work & Income here.
If you have purchased a product or commissioned a service, consider making prompt payment. Your supply also needs to ensure their financial health.
Work & Income NZ also offer assistance and advice as follows:
If you’ve been affected by COVID-19, we may be able to help – even if you’re not on a benefit. There are various ways we can help, whether you’re an individual or an employer.
Contact us if you:
- would like assistance
- aren’t sure if you can get assistance
- are struggling to support yourself, or your family
- would like more information.
In emergencies, we can help you with costs you don’t have any other way of paying.
Even if you don’t think you qualify, call us on 0800 559 009 (Monday to Friday 7am–6pm, Saturday 8am – 1pm) to check your eligibility. There may be other options available and we can point you in the right direction.
In emergencies, we can help with:
- loss of livelihood (where you can’t work and have lost your income)
- food, clothing and bedding (immediate needs up to a maximum amount)
- accommodation costs if you have to move.
- You may have to pay the money back depending on your situation.
Stand-down if you apply for a benefit
Most weekly benefits have a stand-down. This is a period of time where you can’t get any money from us. It’s usually 1 or 2 weeks after your application is approved. From 23 March, there will be no stand-down period for 8 months. We’ll provide more information on this soon.