3 Dec 2021

Covid-19: Nelson outbreak sees spike in vaccinations

9:47 pm on 3 December 2021

The Covid-19 outbreak in Nelson seems to have given people the nudge they needed to get their first vaccination.

Cars queue at a pop up Covid-19 testing station at the Trafalgar Centre carpark on Paru Paru Road in Nelson.

Cars queue at a pop-up Covid-19 testing station at the Trafalgar Centre carpark on Paru Paru Road in Nelson. Photo: Samantha Gee, RNZ

There are 14 cases of the virus in the region - made up of two separate clusters - with no obvious source of infection.

Until this week, Nelsonians had been living without the presence of Covid-19 on their doorstep.

That changed with the announcement of a positive case on Monday, soon followed by 13 others.

A recent returnee to Nelson from the United States, Bonnie Etherington, saw several surges of the virus in the US and said the region is now experiencing what the rest of the world has been dealing with for the last two years.

"You're always afraid that you've got it whenever you have any kind of symptom but I've had multiple friends with it, multiple friends, losing uncles, brothers, grandmothers, sisters."

Etherington said a pre-existing health condition meant she spent most of her time at home as the hospitals were full with Covid cases and had limited capacity if she needed treatment.

"When we landed in New Zealand, I felt safe for the first time in well over a year. I had a really hard time getting an MIQ spot but once we were finally allowed back in New Zealand, I felt like people cared. Whereas in the US right now, people have become so numb to death."

But she was concerned that could change. She has unvaccinated friends and was worried for them, just as she was worried for those who were vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

Just over a month after Etherington and her partner left MIQ, Covid-19 arrived in Nelson.

"You know it's coming right but it's still pretty demoralising and how fast it seems to be spreading in Nelson, I know several people who are close contacts with the cases and that happened much faster than I think they ever expected as well. So, yeah, it's, you know, not surprising, but depressing."

The current vaccination rates in Nelson are just behind the national average, with 85 percent fully vaccinated and 92 percent having had a single dose.

Motueka resident Donna McLeod said the cases were a much-needed reality check for people.

"We've lived in this kind of wonderful security of having so few cases in the South Island, that there's almost this kind of, you know, Does Covid really exist? Is it really just the flu? I think until you see it in your own community and until you know, somebody who has Covid, or whose whānau is affected by Covid. That's when you're going to start believing."

She was worried that hasn't been enough planning for how people will support each other when the virus does spread through the community.

"You know, I'm not sure what to do if one of my people do get Covid and are isolated at home. Who do I contact? Where are the support systems for those things in a small town like Motueka? I'm expecting that Te Piki Oranga, our Māori health services have plans and have support systems. But what are our wider support systems?"

Nelson Bays Primary Health general manager Charlotte Etheridge said since the first case was announced, people had been diligently getting tested if they had symptoms.

Four pop-up testing centres have been stood up in Nelson, Richmond and Motueka with more than 1400 tests done on Thursday alone.

The centres will remain open with demand expected to continue over the weekend.

"It is right on our door and just before Christmas and the summer months, so it becomes a little bit more real for all of us and particularly that younger population and we do really want to make sure we stay as safe as possible over that time."

Etheridge said the positive cases had led to more people getting their first vaccination this week.

Between Monday and Thursday, 9490 vaccines were administered and at least 1200 of those were first doses.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs