Coronavirus: What it's like being a police officer in a pandemic

While many of us are working from home or waiting for our workplaces to reopen, some Kiwis have been showing up to work with their jobs deemed 'essential'.

But it's far from business as usual for many, such as the police. Sgt Charmaine Smith told The AM Show on Friday the public have been just as interested in her welfare as she has been in theirs.

"Being on the front line at checkpoints, just the kindness of some people - I'm not used to being asked how I am, and that happens quite a lot when we're out talking to people." 

Smith, who's a World Cup-winning Black Fern on the side, patrols Auckland's Mt Wellington. With callouts for the usual police business down - there has been a 57 percent drop in road policing callouts, a 42 percent drop in theft and burglary and a 26 percent drop in assaults - a big part of her job lately has been checking to make sure motorists aren't breaking the level 4 lockdown rules.

People are only supposed to leave home for essential reasons, such as attending work (if they can't work from home), grocery shopping and exercise. 

Smith said it feels like in the four weeks since New Zealand went into lockdown, she's stopped every car in the city twice. 

"We've been out there speaking to quite a few members of the public at our checkpoints. Everyone's been kind... It's been nice. We get to stop and talk to people and just check in on them as well. It's a good opportunity for that." 

When there is a crime underway, Smith said police have been well-stocked with PPE to keep them safe. 

"Health and safety is really important, and that's something we go over every morning... We do have our safety equipment which allows us to keep ourselves safe during that time. Obviously sometimes we can't keep the distance we need to from people, but we've got the right safety equipment to keep ourselves safe."

There have been a few instances of people spitting at police - a big no-no in usual times, but especially so in the middle of a pandemic. SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, is primarily spread through respiratory droplets and saliva.

Smith thankfully hasn't had to deal with anything like that so far.

"I don't think it reflects the whole of New Zealand at all. The majority of people have been super kind to us, very understanding."

She credited the Government and health officials with showing Kiwis the way. New Zealand went into lockdown relatively early compared to other Western nations - before we had a single death from the disease, which has claimed nearly 200,000 lives worldwide so far - despite the short-term shock to the economy.

"I'm just really proud to be a New Zealander. I think we've got great leadership, and that's really showing in the fact we've put people's lives ahead of everything."

Another essential worker, bus driver Sonat Thakkachan of Howick and Eastern Buses, told The AM Show few Kiwis appear to be out and about. 

"In my eight-hour shift I'm getting a maximum of 15 passengers."

That's partly because he's only allowed eight to 10 passengers on the bus at any one time, and also because they're running on a Saturday schedule and driving "very slow" so they don't get ahead of where they're meant to be.

People shouldn't be afraid to catch a ride if they need it though. Thakkachan says the company has provided plenty of PPE and are keeping the buses clean. 

"I feel pretty safe in my workplace." 

New Zealand's set to lift some restrictions next week, with the number of daily COVID-19 cases falling dramatically from a few weeks ago.