Covid-19 concerns abound in the Far North as government announces easing of restrictions

covid-19-concerns-abound-in-the-far-north-as-government-announces-easing-of-restrictions

The decision to move the top of the country out of alert level 3 at midnight on Thursday goes against the hopes of the Te Tai Tokerau iwi chairs.

No Sign warning for Far North lockdown

On Monday the Ministry of Health reported a six-week-old baby with Covid-19 had been admitted to Whangārei Hospital – and there were five new Covid-19 cases in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Ahead of the post-Cabinet announcement, Te Kahu o Taonui co-lead Harry Burkhardt (Ngāti Kurī) said it was too early relax restrictions, because some chains of transmission were still unclear.

“We’re not quite sure if we’ve got a clear picture of spread in the community and we need to buy more time to get our whānau vaccinated,” Burkhardt said.

Te Kahu o Taonui would also like to see Te Tai Tokerau get to 95 percent full vaccination before visitors are allowed in freely from outside of the region.

Iwi health provider Whakawhiti Ora Pai serves isolated whānau living north of Kaitāia and general manager Errol Murray (Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Ngāi Takoto) wanted the current lockdown to last for at least another week.

There were communication gaps with Wellington, and “sometimes our response is maybe a little bit slower, or things slip through” as a result, Murray said.

Nearby Te Hiku Hauora, based in the Kaitāia area, is doing the heavy lifting to support those who have to stay home, through infection, or exposure.

The whakapiri ora manager Jo Urlich (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāi Tahu) said whānau needed to urgently prepare for a call from a contact tracer, whatever the alert level.

“Some of our current cases are saying ‘hey I don’t have enough nappies, I don’t have a thermometer for my kids’. There’s other health issues going on … If they’ve got something like diabetes or they take regular medication have they got someone who can get that to them,” Urlich said.

Before the Delta variant reached the Far North, she was concerned kaimahi were burning out.

But since then, their workload had grown further – vaccination demand has spiked, Te Hiku Hauora has started offering testing, and they are the first port of call when whānau need to isolate.

“We’re able to support the current cases quite well but if those numbers continue to increase, I don’t know what that looks like. That’s why there is that big push to get vaccinated.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported a six-week-old baby with Covid-19 had been admitted to Whangārei Hospital – and there were five new Covid-19 cases in Northland.

Currently, just 81 percent of people in the region have had a vaccine.

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