Stratford residents are urged to get tested for Covid-19 after traces of the virus were found in a wastewater sample in the district, despite no known cases of Covid-19 being in the area.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says she is "frustrated" the information is slow to get out to the community, saying she would have hoped the Taranaki District Health Board would have made the information public last night when they were informed.
"I was also told last night, and immediately started the work on mobilising our response to it, the sooner people know, the sooner they can get tested."
Ngarewa-Packer says two units are on their way to Stratford, Taranaki this morning, one to provide pop up testing and the other vaccinations.
"It's really important people know this so they can come and get tested or vaccinated. Stratford has the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rate amongst Māori in Taranaki and it is vital we lift that up, if we aren't protected we are vulnerable."
Ngarewa-Packer says the positive result was "a strong positive" and while it can't show if someone is living in the area or has simply passed through, it does show the need to lift testing and vaccination rates in the community.
"This is Delta we are dealing with, we need to get it out as soon as we can. If it is in our community then we need to do everything we can to fight it and protect our whanau."
The mobile units will start near the old railway station in Stratford at around 9.30am she says, before spreading out into the community.
"We will then go out into the neighbourhoods, where we are needed. We encourage anyone to come along, get tested if they have any symptoms and to get vaccinated if they haven't yet done so. Let's protect our whanau and our community."
"It's important we stay calm, and are methodical in our approach, but it's also important we reach people and get the information out there. To the Taranaki District Health board, I ask - why do you wait? The sooner people know, the sooner they can go and get tested, get vaccinated, and stay safe."
Testing stations are being set up by the Taranaki District health board as well she says.
"As soon as we are ready with ours I will do a live on Facebook to let people know where we are, and please, just anyone who has symptoms, come and get tested, and if you aren't vaccinated yet, do so now."
Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke says the news is concerning.
"This is really worrying for people in the Stratford community in particular, and right across the region. Until we find the source of this positive result the real concern is that we may have an individual or group of individuals unknowingly spreading the virus throughout the community. The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will be to contain the potential spread."
Volzke says the most important thing is that people get vaccinated and tested if they have symptoms.
"I urge people to follow the protocols with social distancing, wearing masks and hand sanitising, and of course get vaccinated. If people are feeling unwell, or showing any symptoms at all, there are pop-up testing clinics available in Stratford today and through the weekend and sitting alongside those will be pop-up vaccination clinics as well."
He says wastewater testing will be carried out again today with the result due back on Sunday.
"This will confirm if there is Covid-19 present in our community and will provide the infomation needed for future decisions at that point."
Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) has confirmed the wastewater sample was carried out by ESR on Monday. the result could be due to recently recovered cases returning to the region from MIQ who are shedding the virus, transient visitors to the region, or could signal undetected cases in the community.
TDHB medical officer of health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, says it's very possible there is undetected community transmission with one or more infectious people using the wastewater system in Stratford.
"It's important we do everything possible to try and find a source because we have not linked the wastewater detection to a known active case. Covid-19 testing for the people of Stratford and the wider region is pivotal. The longer it takes to find this person or people the bigger the potential spread of the virus."
Taranaki DHB, Ngaruahine and Ngati Ruanui health providers are standing up a testing clinic at Stratford's War Memorial car park on Miranda Street from 11am today.
Dr Jarman confirms there have been no positive COVID-19 cases or locations of interest in Taranaki so far but warns the community not to get complacent about the possibility of the virus being here.
"We know the Delta variant is highly transmissible, so if the virus is in our community it could be a concern for people who are not vaccinated."
Stratford resident's will also be given the opportunity to get vaccinated at Stratford Countdown supermarket and through Ngati Ruanui's mobile vaccination response today. People are encouraged to get their first or second dose from the vaccination teams. The mobile vaccination caravan willalso be at Stratford New World tomorrow between 12.30pm and 3.00pm.
Dr Jarman says testing and vacciantion are the best tools in the fight against Covid-19.
"Testing will be key to detecting community transmission and if we get onto it quickly we might be able to cope better if Covid-19 arrives here. But of course, vaccination is our best protection. The higher our vaccination rates are in Taranaki, the less impact it will have on our healthcare services, our businesses, and our everyday living. Please remember to be extra vigilant wearing face coverings, scanning in everywhere you go, washing hands or sanitizing, and social distancing as much as possible."