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Testing times in Wairoa, Gisborne

Editorial

News that two people in Wairoa have Covid-19, and Gisborne city’s wastewater has again returned a positive test for Covid, were a significant reality check on the wider region’s first day in New Zealand’s new protection framework — one in which we have started at the highest setting because of low vaccination rates and vulnerable populations.

The onus is now on everyone with Covid/flu-like symptoms to get tested. In Wairoa that is at the Queen Street Practice (open 9am-5pm today and tomorrow), while in Gisborne the drive-through testing station has been stood up again at 110 Peel Street (beside Briscoes), and open 9am-4pm every day through to Wednesday for now.

Thankfully the two Wairoa cases have been isolating at home after contact with a known case, and there are no locations of interest. The fact that was a household contact is somewhat confusing. The Hawke’s Bay DHB declined to offer an explanation, for that old chestnut of “privacy reasons”, but a spokeswoman said further detail might be released at 1pm today.

All the best to them both.

Gisborne people probably need to be on even higher alert, and the worry is many won’t be because our previous wastewater signal that Covid had arrived, a month ago, was followed by a return to negative city wastewater test results.

This latest positive test needs to be treated with the same level of concern; it is the same signal that someone has been shedding the virus in Gisborne and we could have otherwise undetected transmission of Covid-19 under way in our urban communities. The only way to confirm this is by people getting tested, and the need couldn’t be more urgent — the earlier an outbreak is detected, the better the likely outcome.

Gisborne and Wairoa are among the most vulnerable places in Aotearoa due to our high Maori populations with lower vaccination rates, more communal and inter-generational living, and the fact a Covid infection is twice as likely to lead to hospitalisation for Maori.

We are well on the way to solid community protection thanks to vaccination, but need more time if at all possible. In Tairawhiti, 77.5 percent of people have had both doses (up 2.7 percentage points from a week ago), while 68 percent of Maori have been double-dosed. In Wairoa township, just over 73 percent have had both doses.

All those who are due for their second dose need to get it now, and today is the best time to start for everyone yet have their first dose.