Ngāpuhi Covid-19 response group backs snap lockdown in Far North

5:24 am on 3 November 2021

Residents in the Far North are waking up to increased Covid-19 restrictions.

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Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The emergence of two cases in the township of Taipā that cannot be linked to existing cases prompted the government to move the area from level 2 to level 3 overnight.

The lockdown will be in place until at least Monday, when it will be reviewed by Cabinet.

A boundary is in place, stretching from the Hokianga Harbour on the west coast, to the Mangamuka Junction on State Highway 1 to the Kaeo River Bridge on State Highway 10 and and East Bay on the east coast.

There will be a police presence at locations along the boundary, but it will not be a hard boundary like the one in place around Auckland.

Northland is one of the worst-performing regions for vaccinations, with 79 percent of eligible people having one dose and 65 percent fully vaccinated.

"These rates are still not high enough for us to be confident that communities would be sufficiently protected in the case of a wider outbreak," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Ngāpuhi Covid-19 response lead Tia Ashby said a snap lockdown was the right move.

"With the amount of cases that were popping up [in the wider Northland region], we were hoping they'd go into alert level 3 earlier, only because we know that less mobility through the region will enable the public health team to identify and isolate cases faster," she said.

Vaccination rates were cause for concern, Ashby said, but she hoped this time in lockdown could be used wisely.

"If we look at our goal of wanting to achieve 90 percent vaccination, then we're going to use this opportunity to do all that we can in the hope that whānau will get vaccinated."

Ngāti Kuri Trust Board chair Harry Burkhardt said when there was a clear and present risk, vaccination rates did go up.

"That's speaking to the people who are undecided. We do know that there will always be work around the people who choose not to, however, we just know from a community perspective, the highest level of vaccination is the best way to keep our community safe."

Conversations need to continue with whānau who remain resistant, Burkhardt said.

"We take the position that we respect where whānau land around vaccination or non-vaccination, we need to support them, but our plea is, can we have a conversation so that at least you've got the facts in front of you, so you can make an informed decision."

The Awanui Hotel is one of four locations of interest associated with the cases.

Publican Eddie Bellas said they shut up shop on Monday as word got around that one of the cases stopped by on Sunday evening.

"We closed down the pub and started doing a clean and just notifying the community of why we were closed, just as a precautionary measure until we found out further information."

Official word came through from the Ministry of Health yesterday morning.

Bellas said they have had lots of support from the community.

"The locals just love the place and regularly visit the place so it's quite overwhelming and it's a big shock to the community and a big shock to us at the Awanui Hotel that it's so close to home."

Official advice is that anyone who was at the Awanui Hotel on Sunday between 5.30pm and 7.30pm should stay home and get tested straight away.

They should get a second test on Friday and continue to isolate until they get a negative result.

People who were at Farmers Kaitaia, Bells Produce and Manaaki on 25 Cafe at the relevant times should monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

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