Visique Eye Spy | Essential vs Non-Essential Eye Care

Essential vs Non-Essential Eye Care

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Update as of April 28th, 2020

From Wednesday the 29th of April 2020 we will be open by appointment only for emergency eye care and essential eyewear as per the Ministry of Health’s guidelines under Alert Level 3.

The Ministry of Health has determined that “emergency” within Optometry services is defined as:

  • Acute eye health needs eg. sudden vision change or double vision, painful or red eyes
  • Repairing or supplying of prescription glasses/contact lenses if broken or lost to ensure that you have the ability to carry out your usual life activities

Please contact us on 06 354 6666 first so we can discuss your needs.

Essential vs Non-Essential Eye Care

With the announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of our nationwide, Level 4 lockdown, the necessity of many services has been called into question. These are unprecedented times and many of the restrictions on business operations have been made hastily and without clear instruction.

While coronavirus (COVID-19) is still a major threat, updates every 24 hours confirming fewer people have tested positive suggest a shift to a lower alert level will happen in the coming weeks. This will raise the question of which businesses are allowed to operate and how essential vs non-essential businesses are categorised.

To clear up the confusion and help you understand how support services for your eye care factor into the equation, we’ve written a simple guide below.

Essential vs Non-Essential Services

At Alert Level 4, essential services and the businesses that provide them are the only businesses allowed to operate. Alert Level 4 means New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all physical interactions with others outside their households to prevent further cases of covid-19 and help with contact tracing

The government, under section 70(1) of the Health Act 1956, defines the term "essential businesses" as businesses that are essential to the provision of life and those businesses that support them, such as food and beverage production, some social services and emergency services. Businesses that are considered essential are having to operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission, by:

  • minimising, or eliminating if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensuring appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place
  • restricting activity to only what is essential during the Alert Level 4 period.

These practices can include:

  • working from home as far as possible
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction between staff
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction with and between customers, eg through online or phone orders, contactless delivery or managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside), and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises
  • hygiene basics of handwashing and sanitisers
  • frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and EFTPOS terminals, and other high-touch surfaces

As you can see, staying in operation, even for essential businesses is a difficult task. You would have seen many of the measures in place at supermarkets, or on doctor visits. But what about optometry and eye exams?

Essential vs Non-Essential Optometry

In the most recent communication from the government, there has been some key updates on the nature of essential businesses and services including what is able to be deemed an essential product. Essential goods have been outlined as those which keep people warm, replace necessary household appliances and maintain people’s health. Businesses are having to form judgements on exactly what those are and should be.

Clear vision is one of the necessities of life, and access to resources and professional eye care is by all means essential. The Ministry of Health has made it clear that optometry is an essential service and has granted permission for optometrists to assist in the delivery of ‘emergency and acute’ eye care during the lockdown period.

DHB’s are working alongside optometrists in the community to ensure there are safe protocols in place to attend to emergencies. There is also work being done to produce a triage guideline which will be available in the near future.

While having your eyes examined is not currently deemed an emergency service, any acute eye problems or immediate loss of vision should be addressed immediately,
Emergency and Acute Eye Care during COVID-19 lockdown

If you experience any of the following symptoms that may require urgent attention, you should call us immediately (on 06 354 6666) to seek advice:

  • Loss of vision
  • Sudden blurriness
  • Flashing lights
  • New floaters
  • Red or painful eye

A phone consultation will be undertaken first. If necessary, the Optometrist will consider collaborative care with ophthalmology.

But what if you require optical products?

The provision of optical products could be considered an essential non-food product if it is deemed by the practitioner that it is an essential good and meets the definitions set out by the Government. We’re under strict guidelines to minimise this activity to instances where it’s at a level of an emergency only. Optometry practices are having to remain closed and face to face examinations are not able to occur.

If we have to provide an emergency optical product then we have to do so in a way that protects the public and our customers, minimising close contact and the risk of COVID-19 spreading. At the end of the day, we all have to work together to keep each other safe and protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

If you’re still unsure about your optometry needs during the lockdown, please read our FAQ’s below.


How long will you be closed?

Our physical premises will be closed until Tuesday 21 April. This is due to the expected length of the Government’s lockdown period. We will update our customers and patients when more information is available.

What about my appointments?

If you had an appointment scheduled over the lockdown period, you would have been contacted to reschedule. As we receive information on the state of operations over the coming weeks, we will be taking new bookings.

What if I need urgent eye care?

Urgent eye care includes emergencies, immediate loss of vision, sudden blurriness, or pain. If you require emergency care, you can call us on 06 354 6666. In case of emergency, we will collaborate with ophthalmologists to get you the care you need.

What if I need products for my eye care?

If you have concerns regarding your vision or eye health, or require optometry products such as contact lenses, you can contact us in the following ways:

Our Optometrist will endeavour to respond to your inquiry on the same day.

If you need more contact lenses, please email our Optometrist at [email protected] and include your best contact number. Depending on your contact lens needs, we may be able to arrange delivery of your contact lenses directly to you. Payment can be made online.

Zoom consultations – If our Optometrist deems it necessary, a virtual face to face consultation via Zoom may be an option. You will need to have a good internet connection and an electronic device with a camera and microphone. Our Optometrist will email you a link to enter the Zoom consultation (please note this may mean that you need to download the free Zoom application for this consult).

If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to call us on 06 354 6666. We understand this is an unsettling time but with all going well, we expect to re-open in the coming weeks.

All the best,
The Eye Spy Team

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Maile Tarsau