21 Sep 2021

'This community is amazing': Health service pleased at Waikato testing

11:38 am on 21 September 2021

The first 200 test results from locked down northern Hauraki have come back negative for Covid-19 after hundreds queued at pop-up testing sites yesterday.

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 stead flow of cars turned up at testing centre near Kaiaua yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The area is in a five-day lockdown, with three members of a local household contracting the coronavirus from a recently released Auckland prisoner bailed to the Firth of Thames home.

Health officials believe the man picked up the virus from one of three people who drove him to the house in Whakatīwai on 8 September.

People who work, live or have visited people in the lockdown area since 8 September must stay at home and monitor for symptoms.

On Monday, than half the people who live in and around Mangatangi and Whakatīwai turned up at local marae to be swabbed.

As of this morning the 200 results to have come back were all were negative, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Māori health service Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki chief executive Riana Manuel estimated 60 percent of the community was tested.

Wharekawa Marae pop-up testing centre put through 477 swabs and there were 78 tests carried out at Mangatangi Marae.

"This community is amazing. They turned out, with their children I might add, and those tamariki we saw yesterday were just so brave and really ready to get their swab and make sure that they keep their community safe.

"We really appreciated the turnout yesterday."

People were still arriving after the swabs had been picked up for the day, and were were told to come back today.

A walk-in vaccination centre was just across the road from the testing centre.

"We're really looking forward to being able to push people over there to get their vaccinations if they haven't already done so."

Of over 65-year-olds in the area, 88 percent have had the vaccine, while those under 30 are at a lower rate so far.

"We're going to have to do some work in those spaces and of course the largest part of our Māori population will sit in that age band.

Walk-in and mobile vaccination facilities were the best way of reaching that age group, she said.

"We have a mobile health clinic - it's a vaccination centre on wheels if you like - and we go around to each of the smaller communities every couple of weeks and just keep vaccinating."

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

Two of those who picked up the virus were children at Mangatangi School, and even before the lockdown announcement the principal of Kaiaua School just up the told students to stay home as a precaution.

Mangatangi School was listed yesterday as a location of interest for 15 and 16 September.

Kaiaua School principal Karlos Bosson said 80 percent of his pupils don't have access to an online device so most learning at home is by hard copy resources.

"We made a rush hard pack last night ... and delivered them all to the different addresses about 6.30 last night.

"We've got some on order from the ministry, so hopefully they'll turn up pretty quick."

He was hoping testing results kept coming back negative and the region could return to level 2 quickly.

"Our community is desperate to get back to normality."

Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams was disappointed officials did not get in touch directly with the exact lockdown boundary and more clarity on what the section 70 order would mean.

He told Morning Report it was frustrating after yesterday's announcement to be asked by locals and media about which areas were covered, and not to have the facts.

"As one of the leaders of a community ... you think you'd be privy to a little bit of information to get yourself pre-warned so you can go out and tell your community as much as you can."

But once the community has have the information people just get on and do what has to be done. "Hopefully there's not too much angst out there today".

Farmer Katie Hill, whose property is near Miranda, said day-to-day work on the farm was unaffected. "You wouldn't know anything was any different until you needed to go out, and that doesn't happen that often."

But it was a shame for primary school children, who had only just gone back to school, to have to stay home and some sports fixtures were disrupted, she said.

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