More public services throughout Northland are closing down amid a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases elsewhere around the country while results for those who got tested at pop-up stations will take up to five days.
Only one person, a 24-year-old man who returned from Paris on Monday this week and is self isolating at home, has tested positive for Covid-19 so far in Northland but New Zealand's toll has reached 39.
The Ministry of Health is expecting more positive cases given the rapidly evolving situation overseas and the number of people returning from abroad.
Of the 11 new cases revealed by the Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, yesterday, five were in Auckland, two in the Waikato, one in the Hawke's Bay, two in Wellington and one in Canterbury.
New Zealand borders closed at midnight on Thursday to non-residents - only citizens and residents are being permitted entry.
The unprecedented move was made in an attempt to prevent widespread community transmission of the coronavirus. It was also influenced by the number of positive cases which had come from overseas travellers, and concerns about whether tourists were self-isolating after arrival.
In Northland, those who recently returned from overseas turned up yesterday at testing stations around the region and were given written advice on when to expect their results and what to do next.
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Northland DHB is sending swabs to Auckland and, with a large number of tests around the country, it will take up to five days for the results to come through.
One woman in a queue at a testing station on Grant St in Kamo yesterday was perturbed that the staff taking the tests were not wearing protective suits, gloves or masks.
The woman returned home from overseas early this month and was keen to get tested, especially after her son developed a cough after returning with her.
"They are keeping us a metre apart, but there's few of them even wearing gloves and none wearing protective suits or masks,'' the woman, who did not want to be named, said.
''I think they should be wearing protective suits, masks and gloves to be honest. If I rang up my GP to go for a test they'd tell me to wait in the car to be tested and be suited up and wear masks for the test, so why not here?
''It doesn't really instill me with a lot of confidence when it appears the DHB and GPs are doing different things or have different standards of protection.''
But Northland DHB medical officer of Health Dr Catherine Jackson said personal protective equipment was being used as appropriate to the role of the staff member.
"To get coronavirus from someone requires close contact. This is why when people are waiting to be tested they are advised to observe social distancing, this means that each family or person stands around two meters away from another person.
"The staff we have moving around to support people while they wait are not with any one person long enough to be at risk of catching COVID-19.
"They would not meet the case definition for a close contact and therefore wouldn't need to go into a period of self-isolation."
Jackson said staff who took swabs wore full personal protective equipment— a mask, gloves, gowns, and eye protection which is the same protection advised in primary care.
From next week, the testing stations in Whangarei will be at the Semenoff Stadium on Monday, in the dental caravan at Rawene Hospital, and at the rear of outpatients at Dargaville Hospital. All testing stations will be open from 8.30am to 4pm.
The Whangārei District Council, in consultation with the Northland DHB, has closed the i-site on Tarewa Rd and its operations are being consolidated at Te Manawa, The Hub, at the Town Basin. The toilets at the i-Site will continue to operate.
Full ticketing and visitor information service will continue to be available at Te Manawa.
Library branches and mobile library services will stop from Wednesday next week, as will guided tours at the Clock Museum.
The Central Library will be open for collection of holds only (online orders) from Monday, however no general browsing of shelves will be available.
"The situation with Covid-19 is changing rapidly and we may need to alter these arrangements or close our facilities at short notice. We are taking our advice from the experts at Northland District Health Board – if they suggest our facilities should close then we will close them straight away," WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said.
He said WDC's first consideration was for the health and wellbeing of the people of Whangārei.
Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand schools would close where there were positive tests to conduct contact tracing, but they would not be closed generally without a widespread community transmission.
This was the model that had been adopted in Singapore and Taiwan, where transmission of Covid-19 had been slowed.
Shutting schools prematurely could send students to their grandparents to be looked after, and elderly people were more susceptible to coronavirus, Ardern said. It would also take health workers out of the workforce.
In a letter to parents, Whangārei Girls' High School principal Anne Cooper said there was a plan in place to support students learning through Google Classroom.
"We will provide alternative work for students unable to access digital work. This will be based on the list we have for whānau who have requested hard copies of information. Students can also access Google Classroom from their phones.
"We know Covid-19 feels scary and of course people are concerned for the wellbeing of our children. Please be assured that with no case confirmed in our school, your daughter is safe here".