Northland community leaders are seething after the actions of a few have led to a change in Covid alert level and are amplifying the importance of getting vaccinated.
Northland moved to level 3 last night
after a woman used false information to obtain travel documents and spent several days in the region.
Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the confirmed case travelled from Auckland to Northland and had been to several places, warranting the change.
And it's believed she was travelling with another woman who authorities have yet to locate.
The case was in Northland from the afternoon of October 2 until the evening of October 6.
They are believed to have travelled around the region, including in Whangārei, Kamo, Paihia and Kawakawa, before returning to Auckland.
Restrictions will remain in place until 11.59pm on Tuesday and will be reviewed by Cabinet on Monday.
It will be the same level 3 as applies in the Waikato - the easing steps announced for Auckland earlier this week will not apply to Northland.
The first locations of interest for Northland have been added to the Ministry of Health's website.
They are the BP Connect Wylies petrol station at 49 Maunu Rd, Woodhill, Whangārei from 11.20pm on October 2 to 12.20am on October 3; and the Z Kensington service station, on the corner of Kamo Rd and Nixon St, Whangārei from 3.45pm-4.45pm on October 4.
Z Kensington site staff who were on duty when the two women entered the service station are self-isolating while they wait to be tested.
Z senior communications adviser Jeremy Clarke said they would continue to do so until a negative result is received per Ministry of Health guidelines.
"They, nor any of the staff at the site have shown any symptoms associated with Covid-19 and as always will continue to monitor their health."
Z Kensington has been in touch with the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) regarding the incident, including on-site cleaning processes - and has been advised by the DHB that they are satisfied with the cleaning that has taken place, therefore the site will remain open and move to alert level 3 procedures.
A BP spokesman said BP Wylies in Maunu had undergone a deep clean on Friday night and was open. He said they had followed the Ministry of Health guidelines and asked customers to do the same.
NDHB acting chief executive Jeanette Wedding said the region's low vaccination rates meant it was "imperative" Covid was stopped in its tracks.
"Until we identify all of the locations of interest associated with the positive case we need to be extremely cautious."
She encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and tested.
Tai Tokerau Border Control co-ordinator Hone Harawira said the group were in discussions with Northland police about establishing a checkpoint at Waiomio along State Highway 1.
"Over the past few weeks Tai Tokerau whānau have been surprised and angry at the steady stream of people coming north from Auckland like there were no rules."
The group has asked people not to travel north from Whangārei during alert level 3 until the "all clear" was given by authorities.
"Stay close to home, take care of your kaumātua and kuia, be safe .. "
TBC convenor Nyze Manuel said they were also in discussions with police to run mobile patrols to "counter people trying to slip the border through the back roads".
A Northland police spokesman said there were currently no checkpoints in Waiomio but high-visibility officers were stationed there, as well as in Kawakawa and Paihia, to provide reassurance to the community.
He said more police staff were deployed across Northland when the region officially moved to alert level 3 at midnight.
Some Northlanders out and about last night were unaware of the impending alert level changes.
Anamika Bosman, 35, and husband Coert Bosman, 33, were headed out to a date night at the Town Basin in Whangārei when news broke of lockdown.
They'd heard rumours circulating on social media that Northland may enter alert level 3.
Anamika Bosman said they'd just finished getting their entire household fully vaccinated.
"It feels all well and good getting vaccinated but it doesn't mean much unless enough people do it."
The pair were concerned the circumstances of the latest case would be worsened by Northland's poor vaccination rates.
Others enjoying a drink at LoCo bar at the Town Basin lambasted the actions of the two females as "selfish".
One man said it was hard enough to deal with an alert level shift when everyone does the right things, "let alone the circumstances around this".
Another couple, who did not want to be named, were frustrated that Northland was once again being thrust into lockdown.
The woman said her daughter in Auckland told her Northland was moving into alert level 3.
"It's all rather ridiculous," she said. "Frustrating. Covid's not going away, we can't beat it so let's just get on with it."
NorthChamber chief executive Stephen Smith said Northlanders have once more been let down by the irresponsible actions of one or two people.
"No surprises there. It's deeply disappointing, although we probably didn't warrant that level of severity," he said, referring to the change in alert level.
John Maurice, owner of Kaikohe's Bank Bar and Northland Hospitality NZ chairman, questioned the logic behind the Government's announcement of alert level change at 6.30pm yesterday
when it knew about the positive case for days.
"This Government has got to understand small businesses will collapse in this country on the basis that they are running the show.
"It's bitterly disappointing measures the Government has put in place have not produced the results that we all had hoped for and now we all hope that Northlanders get inoculated to mitigate ongoing lockdowns," he said.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said visitors holidaying in Northland during the present school holidays and businesses such as the Saturday market would be hugely impacted.
"It's totally unacceptable for one or two people to potentially bring the virus to Northland. We were already taking a hit with Northland being cut off from the rest of New Zealand.
"I agree with the course of action the Government has taken and my anger and frustration is for people who abuse the rules."
Mai emphasised the importance of getting vaccinated and said hopefully, Northland would get back down a level next week.
Her Far North counterpart John Carter urged those who didn't support being vaccinated to think about the community and urge their whānau and others to get inoculated.
"The only way we can come out of alert level changes is if sufficient people get vaccinated. Remember, there are people's businesses on the line here."
Testing centres operating in the Northland region are at Kaitaia Hospital; 1 Sammaree Pl in Kerikeri, Dargaville Hospital; 20 Winger Cres in Kamo; and Pohe Island in Whangarei.
"Widespread testing and wastewater testing will take place over the weekend," Hipkins said.
"Every Northlander needs to stay home, get tested as soon as possible if they have symptoms, and continue to check the Ministry of Health website for updated locations of interest. And of course vaccination centres continue to be open in alert level 3.
"We know many people in Northland live rurally, but the advice is the same for everyone – get vaccinated, get tested, and follow the alert level 3 requirements.
"As we have seen in Waikato the virus is finding its way into rural areas and finding unvaccinated people. Distance is no barrier. It's never been more urgent to get vaccinated and we urge everyone to act now."
Information on locations of interest can be found at www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-health-advice-public/contact-tracing-covid-19/covid-19-contact-tracing-locations-interest.