Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Cases in Rotorua, contact tracing under way

“The day we knew would come is here.”

Those are the words of Te Arawa Covid Hub co-ordinator Karen Vercoe after news of two Covid-19 cases in the Rotorua community.

The Ministry of Health announced the cases in a media statement yesterday morning.

The two cases were detected after a person sought care at Rotorua Hospital for a non-Covid health matter and subsequently returned a positive test result.

The person was not in contact with any other patients as they were placed in a room set aside for possible Covid-19 cases. The person was managed with infection prevention protocols. Two healthcare workers involved have also been tested and are now isolating.

The two Rotorua cases brings the total number of cases in the Lakes District Health Board to six after four cases were announced in Taupō on Saturday. One of the Rotorua cases will only be reflected in the Covid-19 figures from today.

Twelve police staff are also self-isolating after coming into contact with the cases when responding to a call for service on Saturday afternoon, a police spokesperson said.

They said the police were notified of the results around 8pm on Saturday.

“For privacy reasons, further information regarding this call for service will not be provided.

“All staff that came into contact with them have been tested and are currently awaiting results. They are self-isolating as a precaution until results are received.

“Arrangements have been made to redeploy other staff to cover until these officers are able to return to work.”

Vercoe said while the hub did not have any further details about the circumstances, it was critical everyone took precautions to keep themselves safe.

“Unfortunately, the day we knew would come is here.

“The most important thing people can do right now is to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them. Please, please get vaccinated. It could literally save the lives of you and your loved ones.

“If you have been putting off getting your vaccination – please go and get it now, and encourage others around you to do the same.”

Vercoe said local outbreak planning had been under way for some time, to ensure whānau and the wider community would be properly supported during a community outbreak.

“We have the capability, expertise, infrastructure and manaakitanga to awhi our whānau and our wider community and we will be supporting them here, in their own rohe, while they get through this.

“Our te ao Māori approach is always about the physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing, and our response to Covid needs to incorporate this holistic view so that we can come out the other side even stronger.”

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said while Covid-19 was always going to make its way into Rotorua, it was here sooner than expected.

He said it was “deeply concerning” Covid-19 had been detected in the wastewater in the weeks of October 25 and November 1.

“It means it may have been here longer. There may be an explanation, but the public wasn’t told is a worry. We know it’s in other parts of the country and could well have been here longer.

“If it means it’s been here longer than test results then we need urgent action.”

McClay had made contact with the Lakes District Health Board for a briefing to make sure everything that could be done to get on top of the spread was done and hoped locations of interest would be revealed quickly.

“It’s imperative that delays around tracing don’t happen here. The only way to get on top of the virus is to put a quick ring around it. Delays are what spreads this virus.”

Waiariki-based Labour List MP Tamati Coffey believed the area was as ready as it could be for Covid-19.

“It’s been on our doorstep, it’s here, we’ve been anticipating it.

“We need to make sure we’ve got a worst-case scenario plan here and are as co-ordinated as we can be. The way our health system operates there are lots of providers … Everybody has got a part to play but it needs to be co-ordinated.”

Coffey said conversations about this approach had already been had.

“It was only a matter of time. We’ve had long enough to get to this position.”

He hoped having cases closer to home would encourage people sitting on the fence to get vaccinated.

“Readiness is being vaccinated. That’s a sign we’re ready. As a DHB we’ve done well and there’s been ample opportunity.

“Vaccination rates are low across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes DHBs but that’s not to say we are not going to hit these targets.”

For information on the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine and other things you need to know, listen to our podcast Science Digest with Michelle Dickinson:

Coffey said it was safe to assume Covid-19 would spread throughout the Waiariki district and into Tauranga but they were forward-planning for these scenarios.

He encouraged people to also reach out to the vulnerable people in the community to see if they needed help.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said in a statement from the council communications team cases in Rotorua were “inevitable”.

“We’ve had cases in regions all around us for a while and we’ve managed to avoid it until now.

“That’s enabled us to focus on getting our vaccination rates up, but we’re not there yet, and these confirmed cases in our community emphasise how absolutely crucial it is to get vaccinated.”

She encouraged people to be vigilant about hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing and keeping track of their movements.

Contact tracing is under way for the Rotorua cases and locations of interest will be added to the Ministry of Health’s website when they become available.

Anyone living in the area or any recent visitors with Covid-19 related symptoms, no matter how mild, should get tested.

The cases come just one day after four Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Taupō and the virus was detected in Tauranga wastewater samples from November 11 and Mount Maunganui wastewater samples from November 10 and 11.

Taupō mayor David Trewavas previously expressed disappointment and urged locals to get tested and vaccinated.

Locations of interest in Taupō include Gull Petrol Taupō (November 7 from 7.00pm – 8.00pm), Pub and Grub Taupō (November 11 from 5.30pm-11.59pm), Sin City Taupō Strippers (November 11 from 8pm-11.59pm), Dbar Taupo (November 11 from 10pm-11.59pm), Sin City Taupō Strippers on November 12 from midnight-3.30am) and Dbar Taupō (November 12 from midnight-1am).

A record of 207 new community cases were announced on Sunday as well as one death in Auckland.

There were 90 people in hospital, seven of whom are in an intensive care or high-dependency unit. The average age of those in hospital was 50.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker echoed calls for people to get vaccinated saying this was a “critical week” if people wanted to be fully protected by Christmas.

People need five weeks to be fully protected – three weeks between the first and second dose and two weeks after that to have maximum protection.

“The whole country needs to brace itself in a sense to prepare for being exposed.

“You don’t want to meet this virus if you are unvaccinated.”

Baker also suggested people plan ahead for social events and the inevitable traffic light system.

“Visualise social events they are going to have and make it a fully vaccinated event. Assume the traffic light system. It’s not here but will be soon.

“Start to talk to family friends. The virus may be washing over the entire country. Start planning on that basis.

“It’s sensible now for sake of your health and family and friends to make it clear it’s fully vaccinated or nothing … so people get the message they can’t put it off any longer. This is a critical week to get protected by Christmas.”

Where to get tested

• Rotorua Covid-19 Community Testing Centre, Kahukura Clubrooms, 1475 Pukatua St, 9am to 3pm.
• Taupō Covid-19 Community Testing Centre, 79 Miro St 9am to 3pm.
• Taupō Event Centre, AC Baths Ave, 8.30am to 3pm.
• Pihanga Health, 28 Te Rangitautahanga Rd, Turangi, 11am to 1pm.

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