Northlanders becoming blase about using the Covid tracer app have had a wake-up call after a woman from the region tested positive after twice returning negative results at a quarantine facility.
The woman, 56, lives just south of Whangārei and travelled with her husband in the southern parts of Northland, to about 30 places around Mangawhai, Dargaville and Helensville, and became symptomatic on January 15.
They were in and on the fringes of Whangarei, including Parua Bay, as well as in Ruakaka, One Tree Pt, Mangawhai, Maungaturoto, Matakohe, and Helensville. The full list can be found at health.govt.nz
The woman had not been to any large events such as concerts.
She felt very mild symptoms on January 15. She did not associate them with Covid, but when they worsened she got a test. The result came back late Saturday night.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield praised her for being "assiduous in using the Covid tracer app".
She spent four months in Europe, mostly in Spain, and arrived in Auckland from London on December 30 before going into a Government-run quarantine centre at Auckland's Pullman Hotel.
The woman is self-isolating at home and so are four close contacts who have all been tested.
Additional Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has been sent to Northland and public health units have been on standby in cases more cases are discovered.
The Northland District Health Board opened its testing centre on Winger Cres in Kamo between 4pm and 8pm yesterday.
The centre is otherwise open from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 2pm.
About eight cars had been through the Winger Cres testing centre in just over an hour since it opened.
Richard, 75, from Kerikeri was one of the first dozen people to get a test at the Kamo testing site and said he did so because he saw the news on TV about the latest Covid case.
He said he hadn't been to Dargaville or Mangawhai recently but thought it was still worth getting a test.
Taini Mihaka and Piripi Mihaka also got tested after watching the news. The pair, who live in Kamo, believed Whangārei should go into lockdown.
"The community is going to feel terrible, not happy," Piripi said.
"It's not very good that the Government or whoever missed her case."
Taini, in her 70s, said she hadn't been south of Whangārei recently but expressed concern about her recent trips to Whangārei shops.
A couple of protesters turned up near the testing centre and were told by police to move to the roadside.
A community testing centre has also been opened at the Mangawhai Domain at 75 Moir St.
Opening times are noon to 6pm today,
and from 8.30am to 4pm tomorrow
and on Wednesday.
Waiora Pene Hāre, from Auckland, was attending a headstone unveiling for her 52-year-old cousin in Tangiteroria on Saturday alongside a couple hundred of her extended whānau. She said she stayed at a local marae.
She travelled to Whangārei yesterday to stay the night with her daughter and granddaughter when she heard the news and went to get a test, upon hearing the latest case had been to Dargaville.
She said that although a sign at the marae said people should refrain from hongi and kissing, everyone did so given the occasion.
Pene Hāre, who had been tested twice last year, said the atmosphere in the testing station felt serious. "It's kind of sobering." She said many people would be in the same position as her whānau who had been returning home after the unveiling.
A DHB employee who worked alongside people at Northport, the refinery and the Ōpua marina, said he was being tested as part of his regular fortnightly testing requirements.
He said he was pleased with how the Government and the DHB had responded and in such quick time.
Kaipara mayor Jason Smith is calling on the Government to set up more Covid testing stations across his district rather than people having to travel up to an hour to get tested in Whangārei.
He applauded the Northlander who tested positive for using the QR tracer app and switching on the Bluetooth. "This is a huge wake-up call for people not to be complacent about the use of QR tracer app. I am concerned for the community but at this point, following health advice is the key."
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai is urging people to be calm and follow advice from health officials. She said people must stop panicking by rushing to supermarkets and buying up large.
"I've been impressed with the response of the health teams across the board and a good thing is the woman has done absolutely the right thing."
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith said businesses in Northland would be holding their breath and checking on staff to ensure they were not at risk.
"It's very concerning, sends tremors through the body. We've seen the worst of Covid and and some senior citizens who are most vulnerable will probably not go to work."
He emphasised the use of tracer app and Bluetooth and for people to practice good hygiene.
Northland tourism leader Jeroen Jongejans said a positive Covid case in Northland was "highly concerning", especially when the tourism sector was bouncing back after the lockdown.
"If we face another lockdown, some businesses will fall over the edge because we haven't quite hit summer yet. The tourism industry has suffered more then any other industry and the trick now is to track down places where this lady has been to and test people there."
Whangārei-based list MP Shane Reti said there was a sense of disbelief among the community and he was now calling on the government to act urgently.
He was very disappointed the 30 sites the woman who had tested positive for Covid-19 visited had not already been revealed and disagreed with the government's decision to drip-feed the locations.
The net needed to be cast wide and quickly to contain the spread, he said.
"I think urgency trumps some of the other concerns.
"And I think if you speak to some of the other business people they would say 'I'm okay with you getting out to my customers so we can keep them safe'."
Reti was also concerned the public had not been told where the positive test had been carried out and expected any close contacts to be tested as quickly as possible. He would have also liked some more detail around exactly how far north and south the woman had travelled.
Northland has had 26 confirmed and two probable cases before the latest case.
Covid testing stations in Northland:
• 20 Winger Cres, Kamo, Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm
• Pohe Island building on Monday and Tuesday between 9am and 4pm
• Refining NZ visitor centre in Ruakaka (noon to 2pm Mondays only for the general public and from 3pm to 8pm for border staff)
• Portacom at the rear of outpatients at Dargaville Hospital, from 9am to 2pm on Tuesdays only
• Whare at front of the Kaitaia Hospital from 9am to 2pm Thursdays only.
• Turner Centre in Kerikeri on Monday and Wednesday from 9am to 2pm
• Te Hau Ora O Ngāpuhi- GP clinic on 113 Broadway St in Kaikohe from 10am to 3pm on Monday
• Ngāti Hine Health Trust in Kawakawa Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am to 2pm
• Rawene Hospital but people should call (09) 4057709 and book a test
• Mangawhai Domain, 75 Moir St, from noon to 6pm today,
and from 8.30am to 4pm tomorrow
and on Wednesday.