Taranaki District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman says the group of Covid-19 cases in Stratford were very reluctant to get tested and have not been using the tracer app.
The Ministry of Health last night reported six people tested positive for Covid-19 in Stratford and one was in hospital – but all six cases are linked and there is a clear link to the Auckland outbreak.
He said there are three adults and three children and two of the group had been in Auckland at the end of last month.
Jarman said the children have not been to school or preschool during their infectious period.
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the Taranaki District Health Board should have been more cautious, after Covid-19 repeatedly showed up in Stratford’s wastewater.
“You know I think there’s been a sense of complacency from the DHB … there’s just a general sense from the community that it’s moving too slow.”
But Jarman disagreed saying after positive waste water tests in the region, there have been 2284 tests done since last Friday.
“It was disease detective work, we found the group of people who actually were very reluctant to get tested.”
Jarman said in the end they realised it was a serious illness.
“One of the people involved with this cluster said it was the sickest they’d ever been and I think then the penny dropped and they agreed to testing.”
Jarman said all the group has become unwell with varying levels of illness.
He said the group has kept to themselves, which is positive from a public health point of view but they have not been using the contact tracer app.
Jarman said there may be a few locations of interest in the Stratford area.
“But what I would say is that all of Stratford should consider itself as a location of interest and that if anyone has symptoms they need to get a test, we need to get on top of this as quickly as possible.”
Jarman said there are likely to be more cases and if people are not already vaccinated they should be seriously thinking about it now.
He said health officials are optimistic they might be able to get on top of the outbreak but will not know until they have finished their contact tracing.
“We know that it’s come from Auckland it’s just looking at the extent of spread in the community, I’m cautiously optimistic that we may be able to contain it.”
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke said today’s focus would be on contact tracing in the Stratford area and ensuring there are adequate facilities for people to get tested.
“If they have any doubts, or are feeling unwell or have any flu-like symptoms, we want those people to be tested.”
Seventy-three percent of Taranaki’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, while the rate for Māori is 53 percent.
Volzke said the region still has a way to go and he encouraged anyone who has been holding off to get vaccinated.