27 Sep 2021

Door-to-door Covid testing vital to curbing Delta outbreak - expert

7:06 pm on 27 September 2021

Door-to-door Covid-19 testing in Auckland is being hailed by a public health expert as an important tool to help Auckland out of a costly lockdown.

Vaccination buses ready to leave Auckland Airport vaccination drive though.

The 'Shot Cuz' Covid-19 mobile vaccination bus has been going door-to-door offering tests and vaccinations in Auckland's suburbs of interest. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Mobile testing vans have been visiting suburbs where the virus has been circulating, and knocking on doors to offer tests and vaccines.

The average number of Covid-19 cases has been trending down - but in recent weeks, very slowly.

Four weeks ago the average daily number of cases was 37. The following week it almost halved to 19, but since, it's been slow going - 17 the next week, and then 15 average daily cases in the last seven days.

Otago University Professor of Public Health Dr Nick Wilson said the tail of this outbreak is proving "stubborn".

"This tail is a problem. It means we have to seriously think about a range of different approaches," Dr Wilson said.

One of which is already happening is door-to-door testing.

In Auckland, health authorities are focusing their efforts on identifying new cases in six suburbs - Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa and Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park.

Wilson said going street to street in at-risk suburbs is smart.

"Given the cost to Auckland of this outbreak continuing, we really need to do absolutely everything that could help us eliminate this outbreak," he said.

"[Door-to-door testing] is going to help remove access barriers. It's definitely the best way to focus resources on the communities where there are still cases."

It could even be expanded further, he said, to stamp out this lingering virus.

There's also another at-risk group of people who aren't getting vaccinated much, and likely aren't being tested: drug users.

The Drug Foundation said some users would be disconnected from society and the government's services, and battling addiction or other disadvantages meant a test or vaccine was not front of mind.

Executive director Sarah Helm said only 14 percent of drug users who are getting treatment are fully vaccinated.

"We are really keen to see a renewed strategy that puts everything in behind trying to support people who use drugs to get vaccinated and tested," Helm said.

"Perhaps we have some transmission occurring within the community of people who use drugs."

She would like the government to work with services trusted by drug users like the Needle Exchanges and addiction treatment providers.

It's critical for the whole population that we reach everyone in the country," Helm said.

"If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it's that you ignore inequality at your peril, because it will impact other parts of the community downstream."

The Ministry of Health and the Northern Region DHBs said they have and will continue to send mobile testers to parts of Auckland with Covid clusters.

They are also offering Covid jabs at the same time, with registered vaccinators on board just metres from someone's door.

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