Health officials are urging people in Tauranga to get tested and stay calm after a "low-level" detection of Covid-19 in a wastewater sample taken on Thursday.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says the five days for the result to be made public seemed "too long", but a scientist says it was returned in two working days after multiple tests.
In the 1pm briefing today, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said a wastewater sample taken on September 23 in Tauranga had tested positive.
Further samples were taken from the wider nearby areas and results are expected on Thursday, Dr Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield said people in Tauranga should not be worried about the wastewater testing results as unexpected testing results could be due to recovering cases.
The positive test was "too far down the track" to be connected to the truck driver who tested positive and visited Tauranga, Cambridge and Hamilton two weeks ago, Bloomfield said.
Workers travelling from Auckland to Tauranga should check they are up to date with testing, and people in Tauranga were also advised to get tested if symptomatic.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges told the Bay of Plenty Times the five days it took to inform people of the positive result seemed "too long".
"Results like the wastewater test should come out as soon as possible."
He said further test results later this week would help determine how concerned Tauranga residents should be.
ESR senior scientist Brent Gilpin said the level of the virus in the sample collected from Tauranga was considered very low.
"The positive sample was received by ESR on Friday and the result was reported within less than two working days. This included time for repeat analysis of the samples due to the initial low-level detection of the virus," Gilpin said.
A sample from Tauranga was analysed two days earlier and no virus was detected. Wastewater in Tauranga is tested twice a week.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said the detection in Tauranga was included in ESR's report which was received on Monday evening.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Peter Bonneville Chandler appealed for calm in a tweet.
He told residents not to panic as details were "scant". He advised people to social distance, wear masks, scan, and get a test if they had symptoms.
The DHB's Covid-19 incident controller Trevor Richardson said anyone symptomatic in the greater Tauranga area - including Mount Maunganui - should get a test.
"If you have been to a location of interest in the Tauranga, Waikato, Auckland, or Upper Hauraki areas and haven't already been tested, please get a test."
Locations of interest are on the Ministry of Health's website.
He said GP practices that provide Covid tests would extend testing hours depending on demand. More testing facilities could be stood up immediately if necessary.
Toi Te Ora Public Health said additional wastewater samples were also being taken from nearby areas including Paeroa, Waihi Beach, Katikati, Matamata, Te Puke and Maketu.
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber said he was heartened authorities were testing other areas in the district to better ascertain the potential impact of the test result.
"Hopefully it's a false positive or something like that but we have to be so preventative and react accordingly."
University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said the positive result was "a warning flag".
"It's a warning that there's a possibility of an infected person and chain of transmission in Tauranga. The next steps will be to repeat the testing.
"The thing with these test results is that many of them, particularly if they're unexpected, turn out to be because someone who is no longer infected is in the community," he said.
"People can shed fragments of RNA [a molecule] for weeks, possibly months, after they've recovered from infection."
Baker said the result might be a "one-off," but if there were consistently positive results, "you would get more concerned".
The test result did not "necessarily correspond to active transmission" and a lockdown was only necessary if there were infected people in the community, he said.
He urged everyone in Tauranga to be vigilant and for those with symptoms to get tested.
"We have to assume there is someone there and act accordingly.
"It's still possible there may be a chain of transmission that will emerge and more action will be needed."
Baker said he was concerned about the Auckland border because there was "ongoing transmission in Auckland [and] there's no guarantee it's going to be contained".
"We have low levels of ongoing transmission in Auckland and we have a requirement for pre-departure testing from Auckland, but that system had the "potential to miss cases", he said.
There are eight Covid cases in the community in Auckland today.
A request has been made for permitted workers over the next two weeks, regardless of symptoms, to get two tests at least five days apart - especially in the construction, hospitality and retail sectors.
Two weeks ago, a bakery and petrol station in Tauranga were visited by an Auckland truck driver who later tested positive for Covid-19.
The Uppercrust Bakery in Mount Maunganui was visited by a person with the virus on September 11 and 14. The BP petrol station in Tauriko was also a location of interest for September 11.
Anyone who was at the bakery or petrol station during those times was told to monitor their health for 14 days from the date of exposure and to get a Covid test.
Two weeks ago three students were stood down and told to self-isolate after leaving Auckland to attend classes at the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology's Windermere campus in Tauranga.
Toi Ohomai confirmed today the students had all returned a third negative Covid-19 test. They would be returning to campus this coming Monday, 14 days after they arrived.
Where to get tested in Tauranga
Mount Maunganui Covid testing services
• Dee Street Medical Centre
• The Doctors Bayfair
• Mount Medical Centre
• Girven Road Medical Centre
• Farm Street Family Health Centre
Tauranga Covid testing services
• Chadwick Healthcare - South City, Greerton, Tauriko, Bethlehem
• The Doctors - Welcome Bay, Bureta, Tauranga
• Fifth Avenue Family Practice
• Pirirakau Hauora
• Healthcare on Fifteenth Avenue
• Family Doctors
• Gate Pa Medical Centre
• Ngati Kahu Hauora GP Service
• Otumoetai Doctors
• Hairini Family Health Centre
• Accident and HealthCare
• Te Manu Toroa Tauranga Moana City Clinic
• Bethlehem Family Doctor
• Epic Health Medical Practice
• Bethlehem Medical Centre
Pāpāmoa Covid testing services
• Pāpāmoa Beach Family Practice
• Pāpāmoa Pines Medical Centre - Palm Springs, Domain Road
• Tara Road Medical Centre
• The Doctors Pāpāmoa
For a full list of Bay of Plenty testing sites, visit the Healthpoint website: https://www.healthpoint.co.nz/bay-of-plenty/tauranga/