An advocate for homeless people is calling for more mobile testing and vaccinations, fearing people may find it difficult to self-isolate if they got sick or visited a location of interest.
The Bay of District Health Board told the Bay of Plenty Times a first-of-its-kind homeless pop-up testing station was set up on Saturday at the Under the Stars dinner.
That venue was chosen following Tauranga City Library — a popular destination for the homeless — was named a high-risk location of interest after a Covid case visited.
The DHB also planned a vaccination drive in conjunction with the Under the Stars dinner but Covid response manager Brent Gilbert De-Rios said it was called off due to the weather and associated safety concerns.
He said future vaccination opportunities were being planned with the partner organisation.
The health board had been reaching out to social sector organisations and other groups that support the community's most vulnerable, De-Rios said.
Under the Stars operations manager Laura Wood said all 75 people at the meal were told about the location of interest and six were tested.
According to what the people told her, 60 had at least one vaccine and 41were double-vaccinated. Nine said they would not get it and six were on the fence.
She believed people were not fazed about getting tested because they were vaccinated.
In her view many people at the community dinner did not get the Government messaging around self-isolating if they were at a location of interest.
Heartspace founder and homeless advocate Heidi Tidmarsh wanted to see more 'Shot Bro' buses and mobile testing.
She said getting street whānau [rough sleepers] to go to places to get tested was a hurdle.
"Six being tested is better than none and will get some sort of result."
One of the older men went first which helped encourage the others as he was well-liked and respected, she said.
None of them were able to self-isolate.
''It's worrying to think about their living conditions - in a motel or under a bridge - if they get sick.''
She said there were several factors that potentially played into the low testing numbers on Saturday. These included heavy rain, wind and people not wanting to lose their space in the line for food.
Tidmarsh feared they could unknowingly spread of the virus. "They're going to be all over the place at locations of interest across the city."
Ngai Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said he only heard about the location of interest on Monday and said he would get a team to do mobile testing for the homeless.
A health board spokesman said it was working "innovatively" with the Ministry of Health and Toi Te Ora to respond to Covid.
He said it followed ministry guidelines to safely offer vaccinations and testing at specific locations.
Toi Te Ora Public Health (TTO) medical officer of health Dr Bruce Duncan said it was aware the homeless used the Tauranga City Library.
He said there was always a level of risk with any venue where there has been an exposure event.
A standard process was followed to assess people's needs on a case-by-case basis,
Deciding what support someone needed, including accommodation was included.
He urged the public to get tested if they had any Covid symptoms and keep following health measures.
TTO medical officer of health Dr Lynne Lane said a needs assessment was done when isolation was required. Suitable accommodation was identified on a case-by-case basis.
This may include cabins, motor lodges or motels, and these may be provided to individuals confirmed as having Covid or their close contacts.
She said accommodation options needed to meet a set of criteria before they could be used for isolation.