8 Oct 2021

Whangārei mayor not happy over uncooperative Covid-19 case

From Checkpoint, 6:32 pm on 8 October 2021

"I'm actually quite grumpy," Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai told Checkpoint after the announcement of level 3 lockdown for Northland.

"We've got a person who really has done everything that they should not do. And they've impacted all of Northland as a result. I was giving the person the benefit of the doubt earlier today. Now I'm just really ropeable."

The person who travelled into Northland has not been cooperative with contact tracing efforts, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

"They have not supplied the reason for being [in Northland]. 

"It was quite difficult to locate the person... The police ultimately were able to assist. They have not been particularly forthcoming with their movements." Hipkins said he does not have info to confirm yet if they are a gang member or not.

Northland is moving to alert level 3 restrictions at midnight because the Aucklander spent five days in the region and has been unwilling to tell the Ministry of Health about her movements, Hipkins said. 

She may also have been accompanied on her visit by another woman. 

The woman should have considered the risk she was placing on Northland, the mayor says. 

Mai said she is "ropeable" the Covid-19 positive visitor has not co-operated with contact tracers.

She wanted to find out more about where the woman had been because at the moment people were "in limboland". 

Her message to the woman was: "Did you even consider the fact that you're putting us at risk? It's just not fair."

Mai did not get a heads-up on the alert level change from the government. She said the details of the case and the person involved is all new information to most Northlanders "and frankly it's unacceptable".

The region was facing four days of lockdown and this would affect people who had things planned for the weekend and into next week. 

"Everybody is now going to have to scramble and make dramatic changes to the way they operate and it just means that we are on tenterhooks to see if this person has infected others."

Mai said with it being the school holidays people should be having an enjoyable time and it was also a chance to boost the regional economy which had now been lost. 

Hipkins said he believed the woman had obtained false documentation to get across the border from Auckland. 

Asked about any concerns she might have on the boundary, Mai said:  "We are relying on people doing the right thing and when people are doing the wrong thing and abusing the systems innocent people get affected by that."

She agreed the region's vaccination rates were too low and while grateful for those who had made the effort she urged those who haven't to make a booking. 

Mai was aware of anti-vaxxers campaigning in Northland but she was hopeful that the possibility that the Delta variant may be circulating in Northland may be enough to push those holding back on vaccinations "into doing the right thing".