12 Oct 2021

Fears of Delta spread in Northland after second woman positive

From Checkpoint, 5:19 pm on 12 October 2021

There are fears Covid may be spreading undetected in Northland after a second woman who visited illegally from Auckland tested positive for the virus.

She was tracked down by police officers last night and is now in a managed isolation facility where authorities have been interviewing her today.

A sign for Covid-19 testing in Kawakawa.

A sign for Covid-19 testing in Kawakawa. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

Another location of interest was revealed this afternoon - the Subway on Rathbone St in Whangārei - but with other locations still under wraps, everyone is being urged to get a test to track any trace of the virus.

While the second Covid case is said to be co-operating with authorities - unlike her travel companion - there are still just seven locations of interest for the four days the pair spent in Whangārei, Paihia and Kawakawa.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said with so few details about where the women visited, it is vital as many people as possible get tested - even if they feel fine.

"The most important message is to get tested even if you're vaccinated, because if people have been exposed to it but they're vaccinated, they may be feeling very well but can still pass the virus on."

Testing has so far revealed no trace of the virus but Mai said that did not mean Northland was in the clear yet.

"I'm fearful that we've got community spread that hasn't yet been detected - that's my greatest fear."

Police have so far been relying heavily on CCTV footage to see figure out where the women went and who they met with - 17 out of 18 close contacts of the first woman have been found and tested, all returning negative results.

The remaining contact is being followed up by contact tracers and will be advised to get a test. 

Health authorities are also monitoring waste water for any sign of the virus, but just 60 percent of Whangārei district and 30 percent of Far North properties are on the reticulated supply, which will limit how effective that surveillance is.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield today said testing remained a very important part of locating and isolating cases.

While he encouraged as many people as possible to get a swab, it was especially important for anyone who knew they'd come into contact with the Auckland women.

"The people we really want to be tested are the ones we know have had contact with them, and they don't need to say who they are but as I've appealed over the past few days - just go and get tested."

There has been a big uptick in Te Tai Tokerau testing - 1200 swabs were taken across the rohe yesterday.

Kawakawa testing crews had to get more swabs from Whangārei today and Moerewa vaccinators were reporting lots of first time shots.

Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Otangarei Trust chief executive Martin Kaipo said that increased demand was being seen in Otangarei too - one of Whangārei's least vaccinated suburbs.

"We've reached the low-lying fruit, and now we're starting to get those who would never come forward."

Kaipo said his teams had vaccinated around 240 people over the past few days - including about 30 gang members and their whānau.

He said those people were not coming forward because of any involvement with the Northland cases. 

"There's been a lot of discussion around gangs and their activities and we've had a lot of gang members come forward to get the vaccinations, them and their partners, which is really good.

"It shows that they're thinking about it as well, and what's happened over the weekend is their leaders are coming forward and they're encouraging their members to also step up.

Northland will remain until Level 3 until 11:59pm on Thursday at this stage.