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Working hard to keep us safe

Dr Hannah Gordon doesn’t regret putting her hand up to help organise Covid testing in Canterbury, but says it’s definitely had its challenges.

Like elsewhere around the country, the number of Covid pop-up testing stations in Canterbury has fluctuated over the course of the pandemic. There are currently three testing stations in Canterbury – at the peak of the pandemic there were nine. More recently, Hannah has been focused on supporting testing at the airport and port.

She says this year has been incredibly full-on.

“It’s like the Hunger Games, just when you feel like you have one thing sorted they throw something else in.”

One week her team had to test 1,800 border staff, on top of all their other work. On another day, Hannah had to oversee a large scale pop up testing station at a Christchurch Pak’n Save. She started at 7am and had a team of transport management and Civil Defence standing in front of her waiting for instructions.

“I thought this is bizarre. I didn’t train for this at medical school, but I have to do this. We all mucked in and it worked surprisingly well.”

Her highlight has been the team she’s worked with.

“People just got stuck in, leaned into the problems and pulled their weight. It’s a privilege to work with people in this environment.”

One thing that frustrates Hannah is hearing the term ‘border failures’.

“It’s incredibly negative and degrading language to the teams of people working incredibly hard and who have been very successful with a near impossible task.”

Originally from England, Hannah tries not to dwell on what her family are going through overseas. She says working on Covid here makes her feel like she has more control in a situation where you have no control.

Her grandmother died last week in England, not from Covid, but the hardest part is not being able to give her mum a hug. She says one benefit of a global pandemic is she has more contact with her family then before lockdown, via FaceTime.

Hannah sees similarilites in the way people respond to Covid and to grief.

“First there was anger and denial, now we’re almost at the acceptance phase. It’s here but we can do things to mitigate it”.

Despite all the challenges, working on the Covid testing team has been rewarding.

“It’s motivating seeing it work. With vaccinations coming, it feels like the end is a little bit closer.”

But Hannah says it’s not the time to get complacent.

“We need to keep doing what we can to get through this together.”

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