A lot has happened in the last month since our last district newsletter.  At the end of February we had the first confirmed case of Covid-19 and since then everything has changed.  We are now in Day 6 of the Level 4 Alert (for four weeks) and the State of Emergency (which has just been extended until at least 8 April) and getting used to being confined to home and our local area.
This provides challenges for everyone and it is important to keep up communication with friends and family and reach out to avoid social isolation of those who may be living alone.  It is also important for Rotary clubs to communicate with their members and supporters to keep members engaged with Rotary.  Also to consider ways to assist those in need in your community within the guidelines of your country’s Covid-19 response plan.
Fortunately we have technology that enables us to connect with others in our community and around the world.  It may be as simple as picking up the phone and calling our members, families and friends and those living alone.
I have just come off a Rotary Club of Manukau City Sunrise meeting held by way of a Zoom video conference call.  I know a lot of other clubs are successfully trying Zoom or Skype to stay connected.  I will be using it for the District Foundation, Finance and District Leaders meetings.  My own Rotary Club of Auckland East had its last club board meeting by Zoom and is trialling a Zoom club meeting on Thursday night.  Then on Monday, our normal meeting night, it is trailing a Zoom club meeting with an invited speaker.  The Rotary E-Club 9920 Francophone has been successfully running Zoom meetings for its members on five continents for over three years.  They have been leading the way and we know it works.
PDG Jennie Herring has a district Zoom account available to clubs.  If you would like to make a booking, email d9920zoombooking@gmail.com and request details.  Up to 100 people can meet at the same time and the facility can have two meetings running concurrently.  Alternatively, clubs and individuals can use their own Zoom account to set up meetings, free of charge unless the meetings are longer than 40 minutes.  I think the time restriction has been lifted for the moment anyway.  This will mean they can get their own timeslot and lessen the organising required by Jennie.
The South Pacific presidents-elect training was held at the end of February at Waipuna.  District Governor-elect Craig Horrocks and his training team ran a very successful event for the presidents-elect from clubs throughout the district.  It was one of the last Rotary events to be run before the events of Covid-19 forced the cancellation of meetings, events and projects.
An unexpected outcome is the travel disruption experienced by Assistant Governor Louise Main who was unable to return to Samoa for 10 days due to sudden travel restrictions imposed by the Samoan government.  Assistant Governor Mehdi Mechhoure was placed in self-isolation on his return to Tahiti.  Rotary Club of Tarawa President Ruth Cross, her baby and mother, are unable to return to their home in Kiribati.  Ruth and family are currently unable to leave Fiji as all flights to Kiribati have been cancelled.  Thanks to the good work of Fijian Rotarians, Ruth and family have been found comfortable accommodation and are faring well in the circumstances.
There are potentially many Rotarians who are suffering significant financial hardship through unavoidable additional expenses for accommodation, food and mandatory medical tests.  To address this need, Rotary has established a fund RED - Rotarians Experiencing Distress.  This is an opportunity for our Rotary family to support our own community.  Please visit https://www.rotaryoceania.zone/page/rotarians-in-need if you would like to contribute to this fund and aid our own community.  The grants will be made by a sub-committee of the ROZOPS board who are all past district governors and will report to the current district governors.
Spare a thought also for our Rotary Youth Exchange students, both inbound and outbound.  They are all living far away from home and living with host families under each country’s response to the threat of Covid-19.  The District RYE Chair, Tracey Faber and her committee, are keeping in touch with the students and their families.  All but one of the students have elected, with parent and host parent approval, to stay in their respective countries.
The cancellation of the district conference after two and a half years of planning was hugely disappointing for the organising team.  At the time the decision was extremely difficult to make, but within days it became obvious it was the only decision that could have been made.  The conference cancellation was rapidly followed by the cancellation of RYPEN, RYLA, MUNA, the international convention, zone conference and all Rotary club meetings and events.  I feel for those who have put so much into organising the events only to have them cancelled.
There is guidance for Rotarians on the Rotary Oceania Covid-19 site https://www.rotaryoceania.zone/page/covid-19-(coronavirus)-information and keeping an eye on the Rotary Oceania Facebook www.facebook.com/rotaryoceania is a good idea as there are daily posts of useful tips and information.
We live in challenging times and it is important we all keep safe, stay home and local.  The sooner we all do this the sooner we will be back to normal.
Remember its physical distancing, not social distancing.
Best wishes to you all.
DG Gary