Community testing centres for Covid-19 will operate throughout Northland from tomorrow but people are being advised that they will not provide medical assessment or care.
Northland District Health Board is establishing the centres in Whangārei, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Kawakawa between 8.30am and 4pm, Monday to Friday to test people who have symptoms of Covid-19 and who have travelled overseas in the last two weeks or think they have been exposed to the disease.
With a number of public events cancelled, and gatherings of more than 500 people discouraged, a decision is expected today on whether to cancel Anzac Day commemorations across the country on April 25.
However, the Anzac Day service at Whananaki has already been cancelled due to coronavirus.
Schools will continue as normal and the Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman has appealed to parents and students to stay calm and sensible.
Eight new coronavirus cases, all believed to be New Zealanders returning from overseas travel, have brought the number of confirmed cases in the country to 20.
Of the eight new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand announced yesterday, one was in Christchurch, two in Waikato, one in Invercargill, and four in Auckland.
No one in Northland has to date tested positive for Covid-19, although a number of people who have recently returned from overseas or have been in touch with those that have been are in self-isolation.
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Northland DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Catherine Jackson said if people felt unwell or were sick enough to normally see their GP, they should make an appointment with their doctor rather than going to a testing stations.
"The centres are for testing only and will not be providing medical care or assessment.
"The aim of the centres is to take the load off general practice teams and emergency departments and reduce exposure risk for healthcare workers in other walk-in care locations."
Each test will take about 15 minutes to complete.
Dr Jackson said Healthline, which would provide guidance on whether testing was needed or people needed to contact their doctors for a referral to a testing station, remained the first point of contact.
"While people are waiting to be tested (at testing centres) they may be asked to stay in their cars, and will be advised to practice social distancing and keep two metres away from other people who are waiting.
"If you can't make it to the clinic during opening hours, it is safe to wait until the next day the clinic is open unless you need to see a doctor, in which case you should seek medical attention."
All medical centres and GPs would still be able to collect test samples for Covid-19 testing if necessary, she said.
The symptoms of Covid-19 are cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath but they do not necessarily mean you have the disease.
Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
In Whangārei, the testing centres will be at the Horahora Rugby Club on Te Mai Rd and in the dental caravan at the Dental Hub, Grant St in Kamo.
The whare in front of the Kaitaia Hospital, portacom at Dental Hub on Hone Heke Rd in Kerikeri, community nursing clinic on Rankin St in Kaikohe, Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa, dental caravan at Rawene Hospital, portacom at the rear of Dargaville Hospital will be the other venues in Northland.
Northland DHB will advise later if another centre will open in either Wellsford or Mangawhai.
There are 30,000 swabs for Covid-19 being distributed around the country, and community testing is expected to start soon to gauge how widespread Covid-19 has become.
The Ministry of Health yesterday announced an early start to the flu vaccine campaign with extra 400,000 vaccines available this year throughout New Zealand.
Priority will be given over the next four weeks to people over 65 or those with pre-existing conditions who are likely to be hospitalised if they have the flu.
The flu vaccine does not help with Covid-19 but will help keep the strain off the health system.
For more information on Covid-19 and community testing centre locations and opening hours, visit www.northlanddhb.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz.