Community responds to Delta outbreak in Whāingaroa

On Sunday 3 October, Whāingaroa residents were alerted that there was a positive covid case in our town. Many shops  in the CBD started to close as more information became available about the outbreak.

With the entire region in Level 3 until at least 11.59pm Monday 18 October, community leaders and local health providers have responded to the outbreak with testing and vaccination centres popping up immediately.

“This past week has been busy but people have certainly been stepping up and there’s been a steady stream of people coming through,” said Cr Lisa Thomson who is working with the Waikato DHB to help coordinate the response.

Nga Miro health have been the primary health provider with nurses from their organisation  and the DHB managing both the testing and vaccination centres that have been running in Whāingaroa over the past week. 

“The roading staff in the background last week, operating the road closure. There were another group of young women doing the pick ups of chairs. It’s not just the front facing locals in this with our community, it’s also those doing the mahi, front, middle and background – it’s massive when I think about the coordination,” said Lisa.

Over the weekend a number of local volunteers also stepped up to lend a hand at the testing centre. Arna-Rose Solomon, who had been helping in other ways including supplying lunches to local businesses wanted to help on the frontlines – to help those who have been working all week.

“Apart from Whāingaroa being our home, our children’s playground,  I wanted to help out Nga Miro Health Clinic and our Paa – Ko Turangawaewae Paa – toku Marae.”

“At first my role was connecting with local businesses to supply daily lunches for the teams. Lisa Thomson was support for that network as well. By the end of the week it became more hands-on to help over the weekend with screening, as the teams were getting tired from big days of testing.”

“They didn’t have to ask twice; doing mahi for our Whaingaroa community and my Marae is a privilege to me really. Our town and our people needed help, pretty simple,” says Arna Rose.

Since the outbreak started on Sunday, there has been a steady stream of positive cases popping up in Raglan with the Ministry of Health reporting total Raglan active case number at 18 (as of Wednesday 13 October).

Dr Jordan Te Aramoana Waiti, senior lecturer at Te Huataki Waiora: School of Health at Waikato University, also volunteered on Saturday and Sunday at the testing centre.

“Just doing my little bit for our hapori. As a Māori, I have responsibilities and obligations that go beyond my own personal rights. These obligations and responsibilities are an ode to my ancestors, and recognise the importance of the hapori as a whole – Māori mai, Pākehā mai,” said Jordan.

“The general vibe has been positive. Whilst some people were understandably anxious, overall they acknowledged how important it is to get tested. It has been great to see people turn up as soon as a new location of interest has been listed on the Ministry of Health website and the Raglan Notice Board,” he said.

Those involved have been incredibly grateful for the services provided by the team at Nga Miro Health, Waikato DHB, Raglan Medical and Waikato Tainui.

“Shoutout to the lovely women from Nga Miro Healthcare in Ngāruawāhia, and the DHB nurses who have all come out to help keep our community safe. Shoutout also to everyone who has been coming to get tested, and those who have been getting their vaccination,” said Jordan.  

“Thanks to Waikato Tainui for mobilising their Covid response strategy quickly; providing testing and vaccination stations, food packages, petrol vouchers, cultural health teams, Marae support networks and promoting well-being during Covid for all communities,” said Arna-Rose.

Our local health centre, Raglan Medical have also been vaccinating three days a week since August 4 and providing Covid-19 testing services to the community throughout this time.

“Our team have been working closely with Nga Miro and the DHB teams providing staff, logistic help and communication,” said Dr. Mike Loten.

“From next week, it’s likely we will be the sole vaccination and swab provider in Raglan.”

Working in the area of health promotion, Dr Jordan added the importance of following instructions from health professionals including using the contact tracing app, wearing masks and social distancing. 

“Many of these people have been working in Public Health for decades, and have drawn upon the comprehensive evidence in developing these recommendations. Māori Doctors and Māori Public Health Registrars have also endorsed these recommendations, based on their own decades of work within this area.” 

“We also need to consider the importance of getting vaccinated, especially to ensure the health and wellbeing of our mokopuna and kaumatua, and those who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons,” he said.

Local health professional Dr. Robin Youngson agrees. 

A former healthcare leader that helped create the national frameworks for healthcare quality and safety in New Zealand, he says, “The Pfizer vaccine will reduce your chance of getting seriously ill or being admitted to hospital by 90% for at least six months after vaccination.”

“Our healthcare system will be rapidly overwhelmed if vaccination rates are not 90% or above. Victoria currently has 609 patients in hospital, 126 in ICU.”

“Immunity from vaccination is slow. If you have a first dose tomorrow, it will take five weeks to get full immunity (two weeks after second dose).” says Dr. Robin, adding that the best way to protect your whanau is to get vaccinated today.