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Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Northlanders continue waiting game as no new locations of interest announced by Ministry of Health

There were 29 Covid cases in the community on Thursday, including five in Waikato – prompting the current boundary to be extended to the south from 11.59pm on Thursday night. Video / NZ Herald

Investigations are continuing into whether there are any locations of interest in Northland linked to an Auckland-based essential worker who tested positive for the virus.

The lack of answers will be a frustrating blow to Northlanders who have spent 19-hours waiting to see if they had potentially been exposed to the virus.

However, no new Covid cases were recorded in Northland on Friday. Instead the 44 community cases were located in Auckland (41) and in Waikato (3).

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said locations were published online when contact tracers lacked clarity around who was there at the relevant times.

“In some instances, a location of interest may not be listed on our website. This doesn’t mean no actions have been taken around tracing the movements of a case.”

On the flip side, McElnay said locations, such as personal appointments, were easier to respond to as tracers had a “good understanding” of who was there at what time, and could effectively contact people affected.

“These situations are closely managed by contact tracers, who may determine that the location does not need to be added to the list published online.”

McElnay said locations were added to the Ministry’s website as “quickly as possible” but could be delayed by people stressed as they tried to retrace their steps under pressure.

“We ask people to check these regularly, especially if you have visited, or live in Auckland, Waikato or Northland.”

The Auckland-based essential worker, who travelled to Northland, was confirmed as a positive case on Thursday evening.

They have since been transferred to an Auckland quarantine facility, McElnay confirmed.

The confirmation came after they returned a positive result from a second Covid test in Auckland, four days after a first test returned a “weak-positive” result.

Monday’s result indicated the worker had a small trace of the virus, detected during routine surveillance testing at a Whangārei community testing centre.

Northlanders have been keeping a close eye on locations of interest since the first positive result was made public on Wednesday.

Many took to social media to vent their frustration over having to wait for locations of interest to be released by the Ministry of Health.

One user wrote: “Why aren’t locations of interest up? Rumours are going around about a popular pub and a large work site. WHY? Isn’t timely of importance? [sic]”

“…do you have a time frame for LOI posted today? Have a community on edge anxiously waiting,” another comment read.

Covid

Whangārei’s testing stations at Pohe Island and Kamo’s Winger Crescent were quiet on Friday morning when Advocate staff visited.

Thursday saw 462 tests carried out across Northland, according to district health board data.

Overall, 20,371 Covid tests have been completed since the most recent lockdown on August 16, and up to October 8.

Northland’s daily vaccination rate shot up with 3167 doses administered on Thursday compared to 2618 doses the day before.

Māori made up 26 per cent of Thursday’s vaccinations, with the remaining 74 per cent distributed to non-Māori.

Yesterday’s vaccine rate was 881 doses shy of the most vaccine doses administered in a day in Northland, which was 4048 recorded on August 26.

So far Northlanders had received 181,815 doses as of 6am on Friday. Of those, 59 per cent were first doses, and 41 per cent second doses.

Ngāti Hine Health Trust chief executive Geoff Milner outside the trust's central Whangārei clinic on Walton St. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Ngāti Hine Health Trust chief executive Geoff Milner outside the trust’s central Whangārei clinic on Walton St. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Ngāti Hine Health Trust’s clinic in central Whangārei vaccinated more than 100 walk-ins before midday on Thursday.

This was on top of the 170 people already booked in for a jab at the clinic for that same day.

Ngāti Hine Health Trust chief executive Geoff Milner believed the uncertainty brought on by the news of the positive Covid case linked to Whangārei had spurred vaccine uptake.

“History has shown us when there’s a live case closer to home our communities here have driven up to testing and vaccination centres to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Friday continued to see a stream of people pouring into the clinic – some booked, many not.

“People are wanting to go into the weekend with a bit more confidence,” Milner said.

He reported a greater uptake among young rangitahi and Māori whanāu at the trust’s vaccination clinics in Whangārei, Kawakawa, and Moerewa.

National deputy leader Dr Shane Reti is putting the call out for Northlanders to ramp up rates of Covid testing and vaccination. Photo / Michael Cunningham
National deputy leader Dr Shane Reti is putting the call out for Northlanders to ramp up rates of Covid testing and vaccination. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Raised vaccination and testing rates were outcomes National deputy leader Dr Shane Reti hoped to see as a result of Northland’s encounter with the confirmed Covid case.

“To the community please test if required and get vaccinated…Calm hands will get us through this.”

He said it was paramount the region’s population get vaccinated as “pockets of deprivation” – especially in the Mid and Far North – increased Northland’s vulnerability to the virus.

“We shouldn’t be surprised, it was always going to be when and not if…we’re the northern border, it was always likely it was going to come our way and here it is.”

Whangārei MP Emily Henderson echoed Reti’s calls for Northlanders to get double dosed.

“My message is, this is our wake-up call. Everyone needs to get vaccinated, there’s no waiting anymore – we can’t afford to.”

Whangārei MP Emily Henderson says she is fully vaccinated and urges other Northlanders to follow suit for their loved ones, and the wider community.
Whangārei MP Emily Henderson says she is fully vaccinated and urges other Northlanders to follow suit for their loved ones, and the wider community.

Vaccination was the most important step Northlanders could take to protect themselves, whanāu, and the local economy, Henderson said.

“We’re really asking everyone to be proactive and take the lead on this in our community…do it for each other, for mum, dad, nana, kids, and the vulnerable people around us.”

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