Easing restrictions mean New Zealanders have begun to emerge from their isolation bubbles.

As part of tight government-enforced COVID-19 controls, the country was on Alert Level 4 lockdown from 25 March until midnight on 27 April.

Under the restrictions, residents were told to stay at home ‘in their bubble’ other than for essential personal movement, which included shopping for essential items like food, medicine and fuel, or to exercise in their neighbourhood.

As a producer of essential food, New Zealand Sugar’s Chelsea Sugar Refinery continued to operate throughout the period, albeit with extremely tight controls enforced.

Although the country’s alert level has now been downgraded to three, almost of these on-site controls remain in place.

Chelsea employee Radlyn Sampson continued to work on site throughout the Level 4 lockdown.

The Refining Shift Leader said he was on board with the extra safety measures put in place and that it was about doing whatever possible to keep people safe.

“We can see that the company is showing an interest in our wellbeing and making sure we go back to our families safely,” he said.

“There have been measures around social distancing, hand sanitisers at each station, no one-on-one contact, and regular cleaning introduced at the factory.

“Management has also split the maintenance crews into two shifts and there’s now only one entrance into the factory.

“It only took a few days to get used to the new measures, and we’re all very supportive of them.”

Export Sales Account Executive Maria De Souza Silva has been working from home during the lockdown.

She said while it was nice to be able to work in the office and interact with some of her colleagues, she had found it relatively easy to work remotely.

“My place overlooks the ocean, and I’ve set up my home office so I get to enjoy the view,” she said.

“Our sales and marketing team has tried to keep things as normal as possible.

“We regularly communicate with each other, and at the end of the week the whole team calls in over video chat and has Friday afternoon drinks.”

Chelsea employees were asked to test their working from home capacity a few weeks before the Level 4 lockdown was introduced.

Maria said it meant they were ready to go when the tighter restrictions came into effect.

“It made the transition easier and we were able to get on with our jobs with minimal disruptions.”