Far North locals are standing up to Covid with vaccination and testing sites across the district reporting a boost in numbers.
While good news poured from Far North clinics, confusion reigned in Kāeo and Mangamuka due to a conflict between the Health Ministry alert level map and the actual location of the boundary checkpoint.
A new drive-through testing site in Taipa, established by health provider Te Hiku Hauora, attracted a huge turnout on Wednesday.
Te Hiku Hauora Whakapiri Ora manager Joanne Urlich said more than 120 people made their way to the Eastern Rugby Club to undergo a Covid test.
She believed the hiked numbers of whanāu getting tested was driven by concern.
And across the district in Kaitaia, the same sense of worry motivated around 150 people to seek out a Covid jab at the health provider's vaccination clinic at Waitomo Papakāinga on Bank St.
An even score of Far North residents showed up to receive their first and second dose at the site, with Te Rarawa and Waitomo Papakāinga lending a helping hand to keep things moving smoothly.
Kāeo saw more people queued to get vaccinated, according to Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa head nurse Lorna Smeath.
Smeath said they administered 50 vaccines, as well as carried out just over 60 tests in the area.
Official figures for the day were yet to be released by the Northland District Health Board at edition time.
But latest data showed 1215 tests were carried out on Tuesday alongside 1464 vaccinations, which included 449 first doses.
The district health board reported 80 per cent of Northlanders had received their first jab, and 65 per cent were fully vaccinated.
A new initiative from the DHB to help hit the 90 per cent target meant anyone who received the first dose in November went in the draw to win more than a year's worth of free groceries.
Far North Mayor John Carter said people had accepted the level change as they managed concerns the virus may be spreading.
He was pleased residents had ramped up vaccination and testing rates in the district.
"We are encouraging people to step up and look after their whānau," he said.
Carter acknowledged Kāeo and Mangamuka residents had endured confusion at the alert level boundary.
Locals were thrown into a muddle by a conflict between the alert level boundary as shown in a Health Ministry map and the actual location of the boundary checkpoint.
Police and Tai Tokerau Border Control volunteers set up a checkpoint at Kāeo Bridge, a few kilometres north of the town on State Highway 10.
Motorists heading north from Kāeo are allowed to go right at the bridge to access settlements on the eastern side of Whangaroa Harbour and along Wainui Rd towards Matauri Bay.
Drivers turning left to cross the bridge and head further north on SH10, however, have to prove their travel is essential.
The same applies to traffic heading south across the bridge.
Police say the location was chosen because it is a natural chokepoint on SH10. It also avoids cutting Kāeo in two.
The Health Ministry alert level map, however, shows the boundary passing through Kāeo township.
Going by the map most of the town, including the shops in the town centre, is in alert level 3.
The college, primary school and homes at the southern end of town are in alert level 2.
The Health Ministry map also places the eastern side of Whangaroa Harbour, including Whangaroa township, Matangirau and Tauranga Bay, in level 3.
The checkpoint location, however, effectively places those areas in level 2.
Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa chief executive Bree Davis said locals were told to go online to check the Ministry's map showing the alert level boundary, but that didn't match the location of the checkpoint.
If the Ministry map was correct people on the northern side of the bridge would be able to come into town for essential supplies because their homes and the shop were all in level 3.
In reality, however, they had to cross the boundary checkpoint to access town.
''It's creating confusion and frustration for whānau on the other side of the bridge. It's stopping them getting kai form the Four Square,'' she said.
''Whānau want clarity. Can they cross the bridge or not?''
Davis said if the map was correct the alert level boundary would run roughly between the police station and Whangaroa College.
The Ministry's text alert also named Wainui among the areas in level 3 but the map placed it in level 2, she said.
Mid North police Senior Sergeant Phil Le Comte said staff, assisted by Tai Tokerau Border Control, set up checkpoints at Kaeo Bridge and at the junction of SH1 and Mangamuka Rd, near Mangamuka township, at 11.59m on Tuesday.
Police were also stationed at either side of the Hokianga ferry because the south side of the harbour was at alert level 2 while the north was at level 3.
There were no issues on the first night with only a few people turned around because they had insufficient documentation.
Overall compliance was good and traffic flow was light, Le Comte said.
He urged anyone who needed to cross an alert level boundary to bring ID and proof of their reason for travelling.
''We need to contain this virus for the safety of all people,'' he said.
There had been confusion over the boundary location but the Covid-19 Response Minister had made it clear in his announcement that it would pass through Hokianga Harbour, Mangamuka junction and the Kāeo River bridge.
Le Comte said he realised some websites showed a different boundary.
''But we're confident the locations comply with the Minister's instructions and enable police to effectively manage the movement of people between alert levels.''
Dannie Samuels-Thomas, Matauri Bay representative for TTBC, said the group had been stationed at the bridge with police since 11.59pm on Monday.
''We're here to bring kaitiakitanga, to keep us safe and hold this Covid at bay as best we can as long as we can, to allow time for vaccination numbers to increase.''
Kāeo Four Square owner Hitendra Patel said customers on the northern side of the bridge were disappointed they couldn't do their shopping in town. They would now have to drive to Mangōnui or Coopers Beach for their essentials, he said.
Customers south of the bridge, which included all of Kāeo township, could still go shopping under the usual level 2 rules.
He kept the store open until 9pm on Monday, two hours longer than usual, to give residents further north a chance to stock up.
''I think people are not happy. It's a disruption to their lifestyle. But I think they will have to get used to it."
The border confusion swiftly saw nearly every booking at a Kāeo salon cancelled, much to the dismay of its owner.
"It's impacted my business terribly," she said.
But she was more concerned about how elderly residents or people without vehicles were expected to travel to the shops for essentials.
"It'll be really hard for them," she said.
Mangamuka is another town learning to live with an alert level boundary.
The checkpoint is on SH1 just south of the Mangamuka Rd turnoff, so most homes, the dairy and the health clinic are in alert level 3.
Eliza Chapman-Kete, owner of the famous Mangamuka Dairy, said the short notice of the lockdown meant several people were unable to get to work.
They included a couple of tradesmen who had been due to start new jobs on Tuesday.
Trucks and drivers with the right documentation were allowed to pass through but otherwise, it seemed most people had opted to stay home.
''I've had barely a customer an hour. It's really quiet.''
The dairy was an essential service so remained open subject to level 3 rules.
SH1 through Mangamuka only re-opened in June after a massive slip closed the gorge for almost a year.
Both Kāeo School and Whangaroa College were operating under alert level 3 conditions despite being located within the alert level 2 area.
Kāeo School principal Paul Barker supported the decision as the 152 students lived on either side of the boundary line.
"It's a really sensible way to approach it. It means we can transition to distance learning for all of our students rather than just managing the change for some."
Barker hoped Monday would bring a shift to alert level 2 and a return to school for students.
"To get there and to stop this happening again, we need to get vaccinated...Christmas is coming and Auckland will eventually open up and we know all the cars come north for summer," he said.
Break out box:
Northland recorded no new Covid cases yesterday as three of the 14 reported cases were released from isolation.
The district health board announced in a statement that many of the recent Covid cases in Northland were nearing the end of their isolation period.
"The length of time a case is required to isolate varies depending how severe their illness is, if they have underlying medical conditions, and the course of their recovery."
The isolation period could be as little as 10 days or several weeks if a case required prolonged hospital admission.
"National protocols guide release from isolation decisions and is based on international studies," they said.
The Public Health team only releases people from isolation once they are considered to be no longer infectious.
"This release means they are no longer subject to a Section 70 Order requiring them to isolate, and allows them to return to their normal life including education and work under any current alert level restrictions."
People who've had the virus can experience ongoing symptoms that last from weeks to months.
The district health board reported they could also continue to test positive for the virus after they have recovered and been released.
"These ongoing symptoms and positive tests do not indicate they are still infectious."
"The best way to protect yourself from severe Covid-19 infection, or long-Covid-19 symptoms, is to be fully vaccinated."
Additional reporting Julia Czerwonatis, Myjanne Jensen and Avina Vidyadharan