3 Nov 2021

Far North nervously waits to see if Covid has spread

From Checkpoint, 5:39 pm on 3 November 2021

Far North communities are nervously waiting to see if Covid-19 has been spreading unchecked through their towns.

The top of the motu is in level 3 lockdown as health officials work to trace any links with other community cases, but so far there are not any.

A boost in testing has not turned up any answers yet, but it is early days.

The two mystery cases in Kaingaroa still have no known links to any other positives in the region, and locals in Coopers Beach are locked down.

Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa clinical manager Lorna Smeath and her team were flat tack at their mobile clinic, they ran out of tests after midday and were running low on vaccines too.

"We're inundated... We've had a few first doses, we've had a family of six, our first. They saw us going past ... saw us in our gear so they turned around and came back."

It is the low vaccine rates in the north that have prompted this lockdown. A border in place just beyond Kaeo has limited the Far North to level 3. 

Locations of interest linked to the mystery cases, like the Awanui Hotel, were closed today as contact tracers worked to find any missing pieces to the puzzle.

Other businesses like Barry Kipa's Whānau Meats shop in Kaitāia were open but quiet.

Kipa told Checkpoint he is nervous about Covid being in the North, but is keeping positive. 

It is yet another wake up call for Northlanders of the realities of Covid-19. On Wednesday the region just passed the 80 percent first dose mark.

Michelle Smith was getting her second dose on Wednesday but said she sees a lot of wary people in the community.

"I'm seeing bizarre conspiracy theories and an awful lot of mistrust, anxiety and anger. The division between people sucks and people should get that sorted. We need to be one and united, and not this sort of rubbish that's going on."

Mindy Macdonald was getting her second jab too - she's also seeing a lot of misinfomation online.

"There's a lot of things on social media that aren't correct and I think that's what's steering people in the wrong direction."

Ellie Read said it is access to the vaccine as well as the false claims which are making things tough.

"We're in an economically deprived area here ... take the vaccine to the people."

The region will remain in lockdown until next Tuesday at this stage, with Cabinet scheduled to review the situation on Monday.

Until then it is a nervous wait to see how far Covid-19 might have spread in our northern-most communities.