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Coronavirus creeping towards Kaipara?


thumbnail 06 MF-Covid19-0As the world goes into lock-down in an attempt to contain Covid-19’s rampant spread and New Zealand’s own numbers of diagnosed continues to escalate including, Northland’s first case, the virus’ snowballing effect on the local community are becoming more evident.

From sports, schools, meetings, community markets to healthcare and social events, including the cancellation of the revered Anzac Day commemoration at Hakaru RSA, the east Kaipara lifestyle is having to change and adapt to help reduce the impact of coronavirus by minimising person-to-person contact and raising hygiene standards.


Events under threat

Winter sports are on hold after local netball, rugby and soccer clubs received official announcements from their respective associations regarding the suspension of games until April and May, and training sessions until mid-April.

However Mangawhai Football Club vice president Bobby Farmer says these dates may be pushed even further back.

“It just depends on how the situation unfolds really,” he says. “We want to say to members, and the community, please take care or yourselves and each other.”

Following government guidelines of a ban on 500-plus gatherings and, after consultation with Kaipara mayor Jason Smith who recommended ‘a precautionary approach’, Mangawhai Central decided to postpone their March 19 ‘Sustainable Conference’ which had an estimated audience of around 300, stating the decision was made with ‘genuine regret’ but ‘we would not like to cause any risk or danger to the health and wellbeing of attendees, presenters and staff’, the conference will be rescheduled for spring.

Annual event Earth Beat Music & Arts Festival 2020 held at Atiu Creek, west of Wellsford on the autumn equinox March 20-22, has also been postponed, with organisers saying they are working through ‘various scenarios to determine our options’ with an update available in April.

No panic yet

To date, the areas Four Squares have not witnessed panic-buying, although some shoppers do appear to be stocking up with certain items, aka pain relief and toilet paper, leaving some empty spaces on shops shelves. Keeping stores stocked, especially with essential items, ‘maintaining cleaning and disinfecting measures’ and the safety of customers and staff are priorities.

Local business Laundromat Mangawhai, a popular destination for many over summer due to the ongoing drought, began disinfecting the control panels on all washers and dryers in the facility plus the kiosk from March 15.

Kaiwaka Movies have decided to cancel all screenings until further notice with the message ‘we have decided to be proactive and prudent… health is more important than anything else... be safe, be healthy’. However Mangawhai Movies are still open for business organiser John Phillis says.

“We’re taking the responsibilty seriously and following advice and protocol from the Ministry of Health,” he says. “This means having adequate spacing in between the audience so halving the number of maximum attendance, and if anyone has recently travelled, been in contact with a traveller or are unwell please stay away as you won’t be allowed in.”

Staff at Mangawhai Heads Pharmacy are asking customers who have any cold or flu symptoms, especially if they have recently travelled or had contact with travellers, to consider the community and phone the pharmacy for a consultation instead of coming in.

‘Do not come into the pharmacy’ their online message states, ‘We are here to help you but we cannot do that if our staff have to be isolated. If necessary we can deliver any appropriate treatments to your home or alternatively bring them to you in your car. Stay calm, be considerate, and look out for each other’.

Business as usual?

One group of health professionals who work in very close proximity to coronavirus ‘ground zero’ is Mangawhai Dental. However owner, dentist Ellen Clark says ‘it is busy as usual… at the moment’.

“We’ve had no cancellations or issues with patients not attending and we are ensuring we’re doing all we can not to contribute to the spread of any infectious diseases,” she says. “We deal with infections on a daily basis, so routine disinfecting of contaminated surfaces and use of personal protective equipment is routine for us. We adhere strictly to the infection control protocols of the Dental Council and are proud to be able to offer safe dental care in these times. In addition to dental cross infection we are also cleaning shared spaces regularly such as the waiting room and reception area, and have hand sanitiser for patient use at the front desk.”

Before booking appointments, staff are also asking patients with non-urgent treatment to defer if they have either recently returned from overseas or been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, until after the required 14 day isolation period. If patients are feeling unwell they are also asked to contact Healthline on 0800611116 for further advice.

“Should there be an outbreak, or if this situation changes we will ensure we can still provide emergency dental services and advice to the community, even if it is via telephone or through a delivered prescription,” Clark says. “We want to keep everyone safe, well and happy.”

n Want to unite against Covid-19? Find everything you need to know about the virus, how to slow its spread, and get the latest updates at covid19.govt.nz

Mangawhai Village Four Square staff member Phyllis Browne stocks store shelves a little more regularly since the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have decided to be proactive and prudent… health is more important than anything else.”

Testing sites available soon

Stations to diagnose people carrying Covid-19 have been set up around the region by Northland District Health Board (NDHB) with the first Community Testing Centres (CTC) already opened on March 19 in Whangarei, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Kawakawa with a Dargaville station available from March 25. At time of print, a CTC for east Kaipara – Mangawhai, Kaiwaka and Maungaturoto, is yet to be confirmed.

NHB’s medical officer of health, Dr Catherine Jackson says the purpose of the centres is to only test people who believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 from having travelled overseas in the last two weeks or are showing symptoms of a cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath – but will not provide medical care or assessment.

“If you are feeling unwell and are sick enough to normally see your doctor please call your GP for an appointment,” she says. “The aim of the centres is to take the load off general practice teams and emergency departments and reduce exposure risk for healthcare workers in other walk-in care locations.”

People may be asked to stay in their cars while waiting to be tested and will also be advised to practice social distancing by keep two metres away from others who are waiting to be tested.

“If you can’t make it to the clinic during opening hours it is safe to wait until the next day, the clinic is open unless you need to see a doctor, in which case you should seek medical attention.”

As the symptoms are similar to other illnesses such as cold and flu which are much more common, having the symptoms does not necessarily mean an individual has Covid-19 Jackson says, although ‘shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention’.

“Healthline remains the first point of contact for people who are unwell and have symptoms, and will provide guidance on whether testing is needed and will indicate whether people should contact their GP for a referral to a testing centre.”

If necessary all medical centres and GPs will still be able to collect test samples for Covid-19 testing.

n For more information about testing centres in Northland visit northlanddhb.org.nz

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