21 Sep 2021

Waikato community waiting anxiously for Covid-19 test results after remand prisoner crosses Auckland border

6:58 am on 21 September 2021

A small Waikato community is waiting anxiously for hundreds of Covid-19 test results to come back today.

A steady flow of people have been going through a testing centre near Kaiaua on the Firth of Thames following the discovery of three Covid-19 cases in the area, outside the level 4 boundary.

A steady flow of people were going through a testing centre near Kaiaua on the Firth of Thames yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

More than half the people who live in and around Mangatangi and Whakatīwai turned up at a local marae to be swabbed yesterday.

The area is now in a five day lockdown after three members of a local family tested positive for the novel coronavirus - they got the virus from an Auckland remand prisoner who had been bailed to their home.

He was infected by one of the people who drove him to the property.

The Māori health service Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki is running a pop-up testing centre at a local marae all this week.

Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki chief executive Riana Manuel said close to 500 people turned up on Monday.

"The really good part for me is that there's about 780 people in that community so with that kind of swabbing we can take confidence that we've swabbed a good deal of the population, about 60 percent," Manuel said.

Two of the positive cases in the community are children who attend Mangatangi School.

Many students came with their family to get tested.

"They're all a bit anxious I think our poor children are mostly anxious about getting a swab but they were so good, they all turned up with their families," Manuel said.

"And now we wait for the results."

The Ministry of Health said it would release the number of community cases at its 1pm update, unless there were "significant developments".

The lockdown covers an area north of State Highway 2 around Mangatangi, stretching up the coast through Kaiaua to Wharekawa.

A map of the northern Hauraki area covered by the "bespoke" lockdown, to the left of the main Auckland boundary and outlined in blue.

A map of the northern Hauraki area covered by the "bespoke" lockdown, to the left of the main Auckland boundary and outlined in blue. Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said anyone who lived, worked or had visited the area since 8 September must now stay home and monitor for symptoms.

Kaiaua School principal Karlos Bosson had already decided on Sunday night that his 27 students would have to stay home because of their contact with two of the infected children.

"Some of my students have some interaction with those children so I couldn't guarantee that they didn't have interaction or played together from Wednesday, Thursday to during the weekend as well. So that's why we made that call to close the school."

Staff and teachers had been working hard to make and deliver learning packs to students, he said.

"We were frantically getting hard packs made up tonight to send out and deliver because a number of our students don't have access to the internet or a device which is proving a major challenge for their distanced learning."

The boundary of the bespoke lockdown cuts through Miranda, excluding the hot springs.

Manuel said it was a sensible line to draw.

"We know our community very well and I know all those areas. It's great, a good idea, great plan because I was a bit worried that it would seem harsh anywhere else."

Wharekawa Marae Reservation Trust chairman Tipa Compain said the marae swung into action to support the pop-up testing centre and encourage the community to get swabbed.

The marae had supports in place for those who found it tough to return to alert level 4 restrictions, Compain said.

"A lot of our whānau work in Pukekohe or cut across to Thames and they're in various occupations so this event will have an impact on our families and the wider community."

There were urupā up and down the coast which stood as reminders of the influenza pandemic in 1918, Compain said.

It was a stark reminder for those in the rural community, who would be encouraged to get vaccinated this week.

"This is not new to us in our memories in our history that we've been taught about the impact of a virus that could hit us."

A mobile vaccination clinic run by Waikato DHB will operate out of Ecoquest across the road from Wharekawa Marae.

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