Complacency is a concern for Whanganui health officials as New Zealand prepares to move to Covid-19 alert level 2 tomorrow.

Although the Whanganui region still sits on eight confirmed cases of Covid-19, with one probable case, the restrictions on domestic travel, keeping to our bubbles and social gatherings are about to change and could pose a threat to case numbers.

Whanganui District Health Board (DHB) chief executive Russell Simpson said the DHB will not become complacent and will continue to have everything necessary to respond if there is a spike in numbers.

"We again don't want to see people thinking this is over because other countries that have thought this is over have experienced a second wave and we don't want to see that here," Simpson said.

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Health officials want people to maintain safe social distancing and have sensible social gatherings. Photo / Bevan Conley
Health officials want people to maintain safe social distancing and have sensible social gatherings. Photo / Bevan Conley

The main behaviours of concern are large gatherings and maintaining social distancing.

"If we just continue to be mindful that transmission is still possible," Simpson said.

Over 24 hours at the weekend, 123 breaches of the level 3 restrictions were recorded in the region, said Stuart Hylton, incident controller for the Whanganui District Health Board-led Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Of those, 36 were premises breaches, 41 individual breaches and 46 mass gathering breaches.

He said over the past few days, figures had been similar.

Whanganui's medical officer of health, Dr Patrick O'Connor, said limiting gatherings to 10 people would help in multiple ways when New Zealand moved to level 2.

It would help to limit interactions and the number of people the virus may spread to.

He said that if something did go wrong, keeping the numbers small would help people remember exactly who they were with, which would assist with contact tracing.

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Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui chairman Gerrard Albert said complacency was a main concern.

"Each one of us is the checkpoint now on personal responsibility. It is the key to this so ensuring we are all safe by continuing to support things like limiting access to kaumatua and health-compromised, keeping that level 4 mentality within that level 2 environment."

He said Iwi had some issues with the Government's decision to let bars open to accommodate 100 people, yet the decision around tangihanga restrictions had been held off for two weeks.

"We've changed our practices, closed down marae and now in coming back online with a lot of those things including tangihanga, there's one group of people you can trust, one environment you can trust - that's marae, iwi-Maori environment around tangihanga, because we already have strict protocols that govern tangihanga that have been adapted and we can't understand why the Government is holding off for two weeks but allowing bars to open next week."

He said this affected not only Maori culture but funerals as well.

Under alert level 2, the central community-based assessment centre at Whanganui Hospital will continue to operate.

Assessments and swabbing will also continue at Te Oranganui, Gonville Health, Taihape Health and Ruapehu Health in Raetihi.

Whanganui DHB chief executive Russell Simpson is happy testing has reached almost 5 per cent of the region's population. Photo / File
Whanganui DHB chief executive Russell Simpson is happy testing has reached almost 5 per cent of the region's population. Photo / File

Simpson said to date 3286 people, around 5 per cent of Whanganui's population, have been tested.

Last week 1283 people were tested; of those 978 were asymptomatic and 305 were symptomatic.

"Our testing numbers are quite an achievement and it's going to make population figures per head that we've tested quite high," Simpson said.

"The national average is sitting at 22 and we are sitting at 22 per 1000 and we're aiming over the next week to lift that with last week's numbers wrapped into it."

The aim was to swab up to 250 people a day in the Covid-19 community testing phase, but Simpson said he did not expect that would be achieved every day in future.

"I think we've reached a plateau point and if we achieve 126 to 150 tests a day that's a really good per cent of population."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website