Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Low risk of Katikati case spreading virus to others, health officials say

Health officials say there is a “low risk” of any further spread of Covid-19 in the Bay of Plenty after a person living near Katikati tested positive for the virus.

Test results of the case, the first in the Bay of Plenty associated with the latest Delta outbreak, suggested the infection was in its early stages.

The person, who was in the process of moving from Pukekohe to a rural area north of Katikati, was fully vaccinated and reported no symptoms apart from regular seasonal hay fever before testing positive.

They were a consistent user of the tracer app and had been having regular surveillance testing given they had been permitted to cross the Auckland boundary to move house.

At least five tests had been taken since the beginning of September, with the most recent taking place on October 5. All five were negative.

All family members of the case have been tested and were currently isolating.

Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board Covid-19 incident controller Dr Phil Shoemack said it would take between 10 and 14 days to know for sure that there had been no further spread of the virus.

“If everyone follows the guidance that’s been coming out from the Ministry of Health then it benefits them and everyone around them,” he said.

“If everyone did that we’d get through this with less risk.”

Shoemack said people who had been in Katikati should keep an eye on the locations of interest and any updates from the ministry.

For other Bay of Plenty residents, Shoemack said it was important to regularly check the Ministry of Health website and to follow the advice provided.

“Get your vaccination organised as soon as you can, wear a mask and if you need to, get a swab and stay home until you get a negative result.”

University of Auckland associate professor and microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said the way the recent Covid-19 case followed the rules “made a huge difference”.

“They’re infectious for less time. They’ve been having the tests as they’ve been moving and because of that they have a pretty good idea of when a person has been infectious if they have been infectious at all.”

“Obviously the more of us who are vaccinated the more protection we have. Using things like the Covid tracer app really helps contact tracers identify where other people have been exposed.”

Wiles said recent cases showed the Auckland border was “not impenetrable.”

“Anybody outside of Auckland who thinks the virus won’t find them or their community needs to start paying attention. Regardless of where you are in the country, use the app and get vaccinated. If you got your first vaccine tomorrow it would be about five weeks before you were fully protected. We need to think ahead.”

Katikati residents and visitors were asked to keep checking the locations of interest page on the Ministry of Health’s website.

Several locations of interest and possible exposure windows have been identified in Katikati from Thursday and Friday.

People were encouraged to get tested if they were there or had any symptoms.

Western Bay of Plenty District mayor Garry Webber said the “low risk” assessment did not change the situation moving forward.

“Regardless of the level of the result, we have a positive result and we just have to go with the flow,” he said.

“We’re in the hands of the health authorities from here.”

Webber said he was grateful that the person who tested positive was by all accounts a “model citizen.”

“They’re fully vaccinated and they have followed the Government’s guidelines to the minutest detail. If every citizen did as this person has done then we’d be in a better situation.”

Webber said the most important message had not changed.

“Vaccination is the only solution.”

Katikati Antiques and Interiors owner Alice McNeil found out her store was a location of interest on Sunday morning.

When asked about her first reaction to the news, McNeil said the first word that came to mind was: “God.”

“I’m not opening and I’m going down the road to get a test,” she said.

McNeil, who had owned the store for the past 16 years, and her one staff member were going to get tested.

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Richard Thurlow said the positive case visited its charity shop, not the health service.

“I don’t want any of our patients or their families to panic,” he said yesterday. “We’ve put into play our plans for coping with this.”

The Katikati hospice shop was closed and reopening would be reviewed after five days, Thurlow said.

“That’s really all we can do for now. It’s very sad.”

Katikati Community Board member Kate Sutherland said townspeople would continue to support each other.

“People are quite vigilant. Our elderly population [is] quite large and we tend to know each other in Katikati. So we all look after each other.”

She hoped no more positive cases emerged as she imagined a level 3 lockdown would come into effect.

“I suppose the thing to do is just tested and get your jab.”

Chrome Cafe owner Trudy Robinson had been urging her staff to get tested after one cafe employee was found to have been at a location of interest.

Robinson opened the cafe on Sunday for business but said it was very quiet.

“I think people are scared now that it’s so close to home,” she said.

Meanwhile, medical staff and facilities in the neighbouring Lakes District Health Board were prepared if any local cases appeared, chief executive Nick Saville-Wood said.

“We’ve been manning the battle stations for some months now,” he said. “The hospital will be all prepared.”

Sometimes the DHB had staff that travelled from the Western Bay of Plenty and they would be encouraged to get tested, Saville-Wood said.

He also said the DHB would continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.

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