Whanganui district leaders declare NZ Masters Games a ‘COVID Safety Zone’


3 February 2021


Whanganui district leadership has declared the upcoming Downer New Zealand Masters Games, being hosted by the town and district, a “COVID Safety Zone.”


Whanganui iwi leader Gerrard Albert says the iwi is wary of the influx of visitors into the district, given the announcement of the Pullman Hotel case a week and a half ago.


The discovery of the infectious South African strain of the COVID-19 virus in Auckland requires us all to be even more vigilant, up to two weeks following that event,” he said.


The Games, which run from February 5-14, are starting toward the end of the two-week incubation period related to the outbreak.


“With Māori communities at heightened risk, it is vital that we continue to take appropriate precautions.”


The recent Rātana celebrations were a great example of how Māori had been leading the way in the fight against COVID, Mr Albert said.


“Rātana last week provided a blueprint for how the safety of our community can be upheld.”


Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says the “COVID Safety Zone” theme being applied to the Games is a serious matter that requires acute attention from the community and visitors alike, but will not place a damper on Whanganui’s sporting spectacle.


“I’ll be opening the Games this Friday with the “COVID Safety Zone” theme upfront, while encouraging everyone to enjoy the Games and everything our city, river and district has to offer.”


With more than 3000 visitors converging on Whanganui for the Games, the town is set for a bumper sporting party.


But as the COVID-19 virus continues its devastation across the globe and cases arrive daily at New Zealand’s borders, Games organisers have resolved to make the safety of competitors and the community the top priority.


The Whanganui District Health Board has come on board as Health Partner for the Games, and DHB staff alongside Te Oranganui staff have joined with Games organisers to plan protective measures to maintain Whanganui’s COVID-free status.


DHB chief executive Russell Simpson says it is imperative to ensure best practice during the 10-day event.


“We are in a very fortunate position to be holding this event, but we need to remain vigilant to the threat of the virus. Whanganui has not had a COVID case since April, but there is no room for complacency, and we must all stick to the basic safety and hygiene precautions.” 


He said it would be compulsory for all participants, sport partners, hosts and general visitors to use the QR codes at the Games Hub and all sports venues every time they visited a Games location.


“Everyone is urged to keep track of their movements by scanning the QR codes. This vastly improves our chances of quickly stopping the spread of COVID-19 if a new case were to emerge in the community -- the more we scan, the safer we will be.


 “Most importantly, we are asking any visitors or locals who are feeling unwell to stay away and not take part in Games events or activities.”


Precautions being taken at the NZ Masters Games in Whanganui


  • The DHB’s Public Health team will be at the War Memorial Centre talking to all Games participants about keeping safe over the 10-day event as they arrive to collect their accreditation and participation packs. They will also be distributing information fliers on COVID-19.
  • Compulsory sign-in (either via QR code or manual register) at all sports venues and the Games Hub area at the War Memorial Centre.
  • COVID messaging “Make Summer Unstoppable” reminder to sign in at all games sites pushed on social media every two days from Wednesday 5 February.
  • Daily push notifications every morning from Wednesday 5 February via NZMG app “Unite against COVID-19” – reminder to sign in at all event sites and hygiene reminders.
  • The video wall on the main stage at the Games Hub will screen rolling reminders -- “Make Summer Unstoppable” reminder to sign in at all games sites.
  • A COVID education team will be present at the Games Hub and around sports venues reminding people to sign in and maintain good hygiene practices. The team is made up of Sport Whanganui, WDHB Public Health and event volunteers.
  • Security on the gate at the Games Hub will ensure people sign in.
  • Sanitiser stations and reminder signage will be located around the Games Hub and sports venues.
  • COVID protection messages will appear in print media and on radio.
  • Mainstreet Whanganui and Whanganui & Partners have reached out and will continue to reach out to their networks around COVID reminders


DHB advice is that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, runny nose, loss of sense of smell, difficulty breathing) should call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or call their GP. 


COVID testing is available at the community-based assessment centre (CBAC) at Whanganui Hospital, 100 Heads Road. Testing is free and people can just walk up or drive in.


The CBAC is open Monday to Friday 8am to 3.30pm (except public holidays). Outside these hours, people can visit Whanganui Accident and Medical (WAM) – phone 06 348 1300.  


And Games organisers are reminding all competitors of the basic safety rules:


  • Stay home if you’re unwell, and get tested.
  • Practice good hygiene -- washing your hands often, and coughing and sneezing into your elbow
  • Regularly clean commonly touched surfaces.
  • Maintain social distancing of two metres when out in crowds and around people you don’t know.
  • Sign into places using the NZ COVID Tracer app and enable Bluetooth tracing. Check that you have Bluetooth tracing enabled on the dashboard of the NZ COVID Tracer app.
  • Ensure you download the NZMG app on your phone as this has important COVID information and will be sending push notifications to everyone.