High numbers of Auckland Covid-19 close contacts in Northland means the region should not expect to move out of level 4 lockdown on Friday, a Tai Tokerau leader is warning.
And it's only a matter of time before the Delta variant is found in Northland, Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said.
"Northland is uniquely placed. It has so many people deemed close contacts of the Auckland Covid-19 outbreak," Smith said.
This had been clearly shown in the close contacts map the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern presented to New Zealanders on Monday. This showed among New Zealand's greatest concentration of close contacts to be in Northland as part of a nationwide spread.
Northern Advocate investigations have since revealed at least 25 Auckland Covid-19 close contacts are in the region.
Smith said the large number of close contacts in Northland meant Friday was potentially too early to know for sure that there weren't any positive Delta cases emerging.
Ardern on Monday announced New Zealand's level 4 Covid-19 lockdown would be extended until Friday, Auckland's until Tuesday.
Smith said Friday was likely too soon for the close contacts to have been through 14 days' isolation.
"I'm not sure that Northland should expect to be put down to level 3 (as a result)," Smith said.
He said the map showed large numbers of blue blobs, indicating the presence of Auckland Covid-19 close contacts in Northland.
"These are the close contacts that are known about, as against the unknown. They're likely the tip of the iceberg because so many people had not been using the Covid tracer app," Smith said.
"I am concerned about Northlanders having expectations of going out of level 4 lockdown (on Friday) and being disappointed."
Smith said those in Northland who were Auckland Covid-19 close contacts needed to be vigilant about getting tested for the virus and self-isolating.
"That's important, even if they are found not to have Covid-19 – and of course, we are hoping they don't," Smith said.
He said even if level 4 lockdown did end on Friday, it was important the Auckland Covid-19 close contacts remained in self-isolation until they had finished the required 14 days for doing so.
Smith said it was no surprise Northland had a large number of Auckland Covid-19 close contacts, as many Northlanders regularly travelled to and from Auckland.
Smith will soon be getting his Covid-19 vaccination, having had to wait until now and his 40s age bracket becoming eligible. He said Northlanders should make sure they were getting vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy issues were very real, he said.
"Just get on with it (vaccination). Drop your shoulder and lean into it," he said of getting vaccinated.
Those who could get vaccinated had a responsibility to themselves and the wider community to do so.
"What we don't want is the Northland variant in future, because Northlanders have missed out on getting vaccinated," Smith said.
He said there was no doubt Delta would come to Northland.
"Delta is on its way to Northland, there's no way to stop it. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but it is coming," Smith said.
Smith said Kaipara was at a particularly heightened risk from Auckland's Delta spreading.
This was because it was immediately adjacent to Auckland and people of Kaipara and Auckland were very closely connected in many ways.
Smith has been working with the Government to ensure improvement on Northland/Auckland border issues that emerged during New Zealand's first Covid-19 lockdown.
He said it was important, that if the time came, thought was given to ensuring the placement of Northland/Auckland border checkpoints was clearly communicated to Northlanders.
Northland/Auckland border checkpoint locations became a big issue for Kaipara residents in particular when the two locations moved into different lockdown levels during last year's Covid-19 outbreak.
Northland's Kaiwaka was initially included in Auckland's higher-level lockdown after a checkpoint was erected at the southern Brynderwyns' State Highway 1/ SH12 intersection – in Northland rather than Auckland.
Community outcry saw it moved 22 kilometres back down the road, south to Te Hana which was inside Auckland and in line with required supporting Government legislation.
Smith said Mangawhai residents too needed consideration in any Northland/Auckland border checkpoint placements.
Mangawhai's position just a few kilometres from the Northland/Auckland border meant anomalies for the coastal town's schools, businesses and more where people lived and schooled or worked across the two borders.