It is likely that the two people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokoroa attended a Rotorua Pasifika event at the weekend, the Lakes District Health Board heard today.
Board members also heard concerns over testing station capabilities with at least 1105 people being tested for Covid-19 in Rotorua in the past two days – more than the first month of level 4 lockdown.
It comes as the Rotorua Area Primary Health Services (RAPHS) says some patients are having to be referred through to the testing station, away from their general practice, due to demand.
In a Lakes District Health Board meeting on Friday afternoon, chief executive Nick Saville-Wood said due to the possible link an additional testing station was set up at the Energy Events Centre at 1.30pm for the Pasifika community.
“So we have put on an additional clinic … at the events centre and we have encouraged the Pasifika community to come and be swabbed.”
Interviews were also being conducted by the Ministry of Health to determine the Tokoroa cases’ recent movements, the director-general of health confirmed.
Saville-Wood said at the meeting that the two testing centres in Rotorua had had a “torrid start”.
“On Wednesday it was only one, and we had to rapidly start increasing resources within that centre.”
Saville-Wood said 700 results had been returned so far and “touch wood, no positive cases”.
“That’s a good thing, but I don’t believe the pressure on those testing stations will reduce at all.”
A Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman earlier confirmed to the Rotorua Daily Post that 1595 tests were taken in Rotorua and Taupō between March 26 to April 27, compared to an “unprecedented” amount in recent days.
“In two days [Wednesday and Thursday] 1105 people have been tested at our two permanent centres and that’s without the confirmed test numbers for Tunohopu Marae and the Stadium,” the spokeswoman said.
However, resourcing difficulties were the cause of a lack of another testing station in Rotorua, the DHB confirmed.
“I need to raise the fact that we have a serious issue as far as resourcing is concerned,” Saville-Wood said.
“It’s not the money that counts here, it’s getting the resources, actually nurses and healthcare assistants.”
He said contact had been made with the Ministry of Health to source more people.
A Lakes DHB spokeswoman told the Rotorua Daily Post the demand had been unprecedented and the figures had surpassed any testing figures previously for the district and therefore it would continue to monitor the situation.
“We have resourcing difficulties, given that we have winter pressures in our hospitals, have health staff at three managed isolation centres and have the testing centres.
“The DHB is grateful for the help offered by primary care and community providers at this testing time.”
However, a RAPHS spokesman said general practices were also under huge strain and were working tirelessly to meet the current high demand.
“The local demand has been overwhelming and with limited capacity, at a general practice level, some patients are having to be referred through to the swabbing clinics.”
He said the organisation supported another testing station being set up to meet the current demand.
Attendees at a tangi at Ohinemutu were also swabbed, the Lakes DHB spokeswoman said, after the ceremony finished late on Thursday morning. Swabbing was then available for Ohinemutu villagers and others.
However, Te Arawa Whānau Ora chief executive Lorraine Hetaraka is calling for hapū and iwi to take the lead in the response to wave two of Covid-19.
“We should not be sitting waiting for the ‘positive test to be confirmed’ we need to be actively preparing to keep our whānau, hapū and iwi safe.”
The organisation was meeting with stakeholders about a co-ordinated approach to making testing stations more accessible to whānau on the ground.
“We need access to testing. This should be in locations accessible to whānau and hapū. Iwi should be central to engaging effectively with at-risk whānau.”
– Additional reporting by Local Democracy reporter Felix Desmarais