Kaikohe locals flock to COVID-19 testing station after supermarket worker contracts virus

Meriana Johnsen for RNZ

The Northland DHB is advising anyone who shopped at New World Kaikohe between 20 to 30 March to keep a close eye on their health and monitor themselves for symptoms.

More than 150 people showed up yesterday to get assessed for COVID-19 at the only community testing station in Kaikohe, run by the iwi Ngāpuhi, and another 119 people have come through today.

The Ngāpuhi Pandemic Response team's project lead Tia Ashby said not all those who showed up needed testing, with only 30 requiring swabbing on Sunday and 33 today.

Ashby said most of those who showed up just needed reassurance from health professionals that their symptoms were just allergies or the common cold and not COVID-19.

"A lot of them did say they have anxieties... it's every day when they see numbers rising, any little niggle that could be similar to what COVID-19 is can trigger anxieties," she said.

"That's why we have the CBAC [community-based assessment clinic] to ensure that whānau have the right education on what these resources actually mean, so it's about health literacy, [and] comprehension on the medical terminology that can be confusing at times."

Of those who came to the community clinic on Sunday, Ashby said 55 were in need of social services, with Whānau Ora navigators also working onsite to help those struggling to pay rent or feed their family.

The testing station, run by the iwi in conjunction with Broadway Health Centre and Mahitahi PHO, was opened on Friday morning.

Te Rūnanga-a-iwi o Ngāpuhi chair Mere Mangu said the iwi was "running off its own resources", as it had not been given a share of the $2.2 million she understood Northland DHB had budgeted for Māori health providers.

"We are the only Māori provider with this facility, especially in the north here, and yet we have not received any funding from the Northland DHB.

"This is a service we know this community needs so we are going to carry it, but we are also seeking to be funded in the proper way and have equitable service from these government departments out to us that we should be entitled to."

Northland DHB did not respond to RNZ's request for comment.

Mangu said Foodstuffs, which owned the Kaikohe New World where the infected employee worked, needed to front up to the community.

"We'd like to know from Foodstuffs that they really do have concern for their kaimahi, that they have all been tested or they have all be laid-off so the public are really safe to go in there."

In a statement, Foodstuffs said as soon as the store was alerted about the positive test, the worker's immediate team members were tested as a precaution and were sent home to isolate.

They will remain at home until their test results are returned.

A deep clean of the department and the wider store was also undertaken.