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A person has tested positive for Covid-19 in Kawhia – which is currently the country’s least vaccinated area and is outside the Waikato level 3 boundary.
Ōtorohanga district Mayor Max Baxter confirmed he had been informed of the positive case this morning.
The Herald understands the Kawhia case is a close contact of the Hamilton East case.
Kawhia is currently outside the north Waikato level 3 boundary and Baxter said he was unsure if or where the town would be plunged into a higher alert level.
The Kawhia township is south of Raglan Harbour, Ruapuke and Aotea Harbour, about 40 kilometres southwest of Hamilton.
The Ōtorohanga District is at the bottom of the Herald’s Top Towns table for percentage of people fully vaccinated – at just 32.9 per cent of the eligible population.
The Ministry of Health was currently organising setting up testing stations in the town, Baxter said.
“I was informed that there’s a positive case there.
“And from that, I believe they’re going to be setting up more testing centres in town, in Kawhia.
“So I think there’s going to be a bit more activity out there.”
Baxter said a positive to come out of the Covid case could be that the Ōtorohanga district can shake its title of having the lowest vaccination rate in the country.
“Maybe this will encourage people to get vaccinated. In a report that I read, the day before yesterday, it ranked all the councils across the country in regards to both vaccinations… it’s terrible that it takes a heightened awareness to inspire people to get vaccinated but that’s the case,” Baxter said.
“As they say, Delta is the virus of the unvaccinated.”
Baxter said he understood the apprehension about having the vaccine but once they had a member of their whānau affected, they would change their tune.
“Trust me if one of their whānau or friends got seriously ill or died as a consequence I’m sure their views would be entirely different.
“It’s not vaccines that takes people’s liberties away, it’s Delta that takes people’s liberties away, it’s Covid itself, in essence.”
As for what to do with Kawhia in an alert level setting, Baxter said if the Ōtorohanga district was put into level 3 it didn’t make sense to leave out the Waipā district, which encompassed Te Awamutu and its surrounds.
“As for lockdowns, do you just lockdown the town itself or does the extension from Hamilton go further, does that include Hamilton Airport or Te Awamutu?
“Where do you start and where do you stop, that’s the biggest issue we’re confronting now.
“How do you leave Waipā out of the equation, it just doesn’t make sense. Goodness knows.”
However, Baxter said at this stage, there was no talk of changing alert levels – the question was raised – but there were still several unknowns including how much the new case had been mixing in the community and whether they were aware they should be in self-isolation.
“Once we get those particulars sorted then a decision would be made. It could well be just Kawhia itself, but in saying that, how the hell do you get your groceries because you can’t get them in Kawhia.
“You could do it but you’re going to have to be bringing in supplies for a while.”
New Raglan locations of interest
It also emerged this morning that there are three new Covid exposure events identified in Raglan- two at a local sushi shop and the third at a laundromat.
The Aroha Sushi shop, in Wallis St in Raglan, has been connected to a positive case or cases three times in the last week.
The first visit was last week on Wednesday, between 8am and 2pm.
The second visit was on Friday (October 1) between 8am and 5.15pm.
The third link to the shop is also on that Friday between 3.15pm and 4.15pm.
Anyone who has been to the sushi establishment is being told: “Self-isolate for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest.”
People are also told to get tested for Covid-19 immediately and to record their visit on the Ministry of Health website.
Auckland's new phase of freedom – just don't share the loo
Meanwhile Aucklanders have been out and about since early this morning following minor loosening of level 3 Delta rules.
That includes numerous boaties finally firing up their boats for fishing trips off Auckland’s coastline after a nationwide level 4 lockdown was brought in on August 18.
The Herald also spotted this morning several groups of swimmers taking to the water around the harbour.
Auckland still remains in level 3. Areas of the Waikato are also in level 3, while the rest of the country is in level 2.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinforced that those mingling between extended bubbles had to do it outdoors and hosts were not to allow visitors inside to use bathrooms.
From today those in the locked down Auckland region have been able to extend their bubbles slightly; with gatherings of up to 10 people – from a maximum of two bubbles – able to meet outside.
Other changes include Auckland region residents being able to go fishing from boats, hunting, play sports such as lawn bowls, or do outdoor yoga. But again, all activities have to be limited to 10 people.
The tweaks came into force at 11.59am last night.
Speaking on the Hits, Ardern was asked about the rules for Aucklanders meeting outdoors today.
She stressed that Aucklanders meeting today had to meet outside – they could not go inside to use someone’s bathroom.
“The outside thing is key, this is the only way this can happen safely.”
Asked about loosening restrictions in the South Island she said level 2 was protecting them if more cases popped up outside Auckland, as had happened in Waikato and Palmerston North.
“While there is an outbreak anywhere in New Zealand, we are all at risk,” she said.
As some Aucklanders took to the outdoors, National Party leader Judith Collins described the Ardern Government’s move to reduce restrictions in Auckland as a “pretty bold move”.
Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast, she said: “I thought that the Government lifting some of the restrictions around the lockdown in Auckland before we got the vaccinations rate up further was a pretty bold move.”
The loosening of rules in the Auckland region come just a day after the Government revealed plans for its version of a vaccine passport.
The certificate would be available for those who have been double vaccinated, with those wanting to attend large-scale events over summer requiring one.
Consultation is ongoing whether it will be used at other businesses, including hospitality venues.
Ardern said 84 per cent of eligible Aucklanders had the first dose, and it was possible they could reach 90 per cent in the next few weeks.
“If people get vaccinated in the next month, they will be vaccinated for Christmas,” she said.
While 90 per cent plus coverage put New Zealand in a good place for large scale events such as festivals, she said that 90 per cent of the eligible population only meant around 76 per cent of the total population.
Chef and entrepreneur Simon Gault told Mike Yardley on Newstalk ZB that the new vaccine passport could be positive but the Government needed to support hospitality businesses as they couldn’t continue to survive in levels 3 and 4.
He labelled those who didn’t want to get vaccines as “muppets” as not getting it was selfish and was holding businesses to ransom.
As for businesses not getting involved with the passport to get in, Gault said they could be thought of as a germ-fest, but he hoped the Government would step up and grow “some balls” and enforce the passport so they didn’t have to decide for themselves.
He said it was a shame that there were what he described as selfish, unvaccinated people putting others at risk and that the Government even had to go to lengths of organising the passport.
Gault added that the financial health of many operators in the hospitality industry was “dire” and many were struggling to keep afloat.
Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham has also confirmed that the Gisborne festival would need level 1 conditions to go ahead.
Pinkham also told the AM Show that the vaccine passports were a good tool for events such as his.
“What we learnt yesterday was no vax, no gigs, so we are now as an industry getting behind that,” he said.
“At least it gives us some sort if line in the sand we can work towards.”
Asked about people who can’t be vaccinated who may have already bought a ticket, he said they would be given a refund.
He said 50 per cent of their attendees came from Auckland, and they would need the country open for the festival to go ahead as normal.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB that the decision to grant a Mongrel Mob leader essential worker status to get through to Auckland was simply about trying to eliminate Covid-19 and ensuring they could get accurate contact tracing information.
The head of Waikato’s Mongrel Mob chapter was given an essential worker exemption to travel in and out of Auckland last weekend.
Sonny Fatupaito has been working with some of the harder to reach communities in the city, such as those with gang affiliations.
“No one’s a fan of gangs, I’m not a fan of gangs, but ultimately needs must in this situation and we need to get Covid under control,” Hipkins said.
He said the last thing the Government needed was to miss them and for gangs to stop co-operating.
“If we have to bring someone into Auckland to make sure that they co-operate then that’s what we have to do.”
Asked what the public would be thinking about a gang member being granted essential worker status, Hipkins replied: “Ultimately the public will want to see that we’re stamping out Covid-19 cases.
“If that means that we’ve got Mongrel Mob or any other gang members in there we need to get information out of them. If we take a law and order, hard line approach with them that’s probably the worst thing we can do in regards to Covid because it will mean they will just stop giving us information.”
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