The spread of Omicron continues to grow around the country, and while Whanganui has remained relatively unscathed thus far, it can expect "plenty of cases".
That's according to Whanganui medical officer of health Patrick O'Connor, who said while the Omicron variant of Covid-19 caused less harm than Delta, there would still be some stress on the health system due to the increased number of cases.
"I'm not going to make dire predictions at this point, but there's plenty of work ahead," he said.
"It won't be over quickly."
As of Friday afternoon Whanganui was one of only four district health board regions to have no actives cases, but there are cases in neighbouring Taranaki (2), Mid Central (4) and Waikato (27), Lakes (83) and Hawke's Bay (22) regions.
People in Whanganui could prepare for potential outbreaks by having basic supplies on hand if self-isolation was required, O'Connor said.
"Secondly, have you got friends and family who can deliver something to your front door?"
O'Connor said he was happy to see a high level of awareness remain in the local community, despite Whanganui having very little contact with active Covid-19 cases.
"I look around Whanganui and see more mask use than I could ever have dreamed of a year ago. We are much more natural about it now.
"We have developed some very good habits which will see us well when the cases arrive."
He still had concerns about more at-risk populations.
"Places like our rest homes will have to remain particularly vigilant.
"The hospital will have to maintain very good infection control procedures as well.
"If there are people who are severely ill we will have back-up from neighbouring hospitals. I don't want to sound complacent in any way, but I think we are prepared."
The introduction of rapid antigen tests would be important in maintaining hospital staffing levels, O'Connor said.
"If someone in a key job can take a test at eight in the morning and they're negative, even though they have been in close contact with a case, that test means they can work for the day.
"That means the system can continue to function."
There would be a move towards self management as case numbers grew, returning Wanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson said.
Simpson has just completed a four-month secondment to the Ministry of Health, where he worked on a health system preparedness programme that dealt with a possible surge in Covid-19 cases nationally.
"Because Omicron tends to be less significant in terms of its illness, and with the scale and the numbers we're predicting, there will be a transition to using self-service for the majority of New Zealanders," Simpson said.
"I would encourage people to prepare themselves for periods of isolation but there is no need, in a country like ours that has adequate supplies, to be stocking up on a whole heaps of items."
Like O'Connor, Simpson said linking in with friends and family was important.
"Have a plan in case they test positive. Who is going to get critical supplies, who is going to groceries, medications etc.
"People need to think ahead and prepare for that."
The tool that remained the most effective was Covid-19 vaccination, Simpson said.
"I need to the emphasise the importance of getting a booster if you're eligible, and getting children vaccinated before they go back to school and start mingling.
"Follow the standard public health messaging around face masks and hand hygiene, and use the contact tracer QR codes wherever you go.
"That's a message the country should be pretty familiar with by now."
It was critical that clear messages went out to the public from the Government and health services, because "we won't necessarily be in touch with every single person to press the message home", O'Connor said.
"Whanganui has largely escaped it [Covid-19] to date, but that will not always be the case."
On Friday Horizons Regional Council announced that a Palmerston North staff member had tested positive for Covid-19.
This is the same case that was confirmed by the MidCentral District Health Board on Thursday night.
Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney said the case, who was based in the regional council's Palmerston North Queen St office, was isolating at home and public health investigations were ongoing.
"A number of Horizons Regional Council staff are now isolating as close contacts, and we are working closely with the public health unit to identify any locations of interest," McCartney said.
"Any close contacts from outside Horizons Regional Council will be contacted by the public health unit.
"In addition to Horizons' close contacts that are isolating, we have taken further precautionary steps by postponing any external meetings within the wider district, compulsory mask wearing in all of our offices, and assessing our other premises for casual contacts."