Five dedicated sites across the MidCentral District will be setup to test and swab for suspected cases of Covid-19.

They are Palmerston North City, Horowhenua District, Ōtaki, Manawatū District and Tararua District.

MidCentral District Health Board is one of all New Zealand DHBs that have been asked to set up testing and swabbing sites in their communities to provide greater support to people and whānau, while taking pressure off general practice teams and the hospital staff by allowing them to focus on providing essential healthcare in their communities.

From next week, MidCentral and all New Zealand DHBs will be ready to activate these sites to Community Based Assessment Centres within 24 hours if there is a need to provide swabbing for larger volumes of people.

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There will also be a mobile testing unit available to support harder to reach groups.

Healthline will manage referrals to the testing sites, and advice on whether testing is required can be obtained by calling the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline number on 0800 358 5453 if you or your whānau are unwell.

General Practice teams will also be able to refer patients to these sites, if required.

MidCentral DHB chief executive Kathryn Cook said these plans were in place to ensure MidCentral communities were well supported and have access to sites for assessment and swabbing.

"We know that thorough planning for a potential outbreak is important and our community can feel reassured that we are doing everything we can to prepare for this rapidly evolving situation.

"We also want to ensure the safety of our staff, patients and community healthcare providers, so please if you are feeling unwell, do not visit any patients within healthcare settings, such as hospitals and aged residential care facilities.

"We also ask that you please phone ahead if you need medical attention and are exhibiting symptoms that could match those of Covid-19."

Symptoms of Covid-19 include a cough, a high temperature (at least 38°C) and shortness of breath.

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These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have Covid-19.

The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

If you have these symptoms and have recently been to a country or area of concern, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19, please telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or call ahead to your GP practice immediately.

To prevent the illness spreading, it is important to maintain good hygiene, including washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, putting used tissues into the bin immediately, avoid contact with unwell people, do not touch your face and stay home if you feel unwell.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information on the coronavirus in New Zealand, health advice and resources, please visit the Ministry of Health website at www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus