COVID-19: Calls for tougher restrictions amid concerns next outbreak could be imminent despite Northland negative tests

Despite the negative tests in Northland, residents and business owners remain concerned the next outbreak could be imminent.

Ruakaka resident Graeme Johnson reported for testing at the raceway.

He's relieved to know of the close contact's negative results - but is not convinced it's all over.

"They need to be ready because this could happen again," he says.

He wants New Zealand better protected from places like the US and UK - including by suspending flights from those regions.

Dina, who's just reopened the Ruakaka General Store, a place the infected woman visited, agrees.

"Everyone is bringing it in from overseas, just jeopardising every New Zealander that's living here," she says.

Health officials aren't keen on that idea - but agree we need to stay vigilant.

"There are encouraging signs in Northland so far, but the situation is evolving and we aren't breathing out just yet," says Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Northland's COVID scare started with a failure at a managed isolation hotel and the COVID-19 Response Minister has indicated tweaks to the rules may be needed.

"We are looking at the end of stay protocols and whether there should be changes there," Chris Hipkins says.

But Otago Uni epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says we should act with more urgency. And there's a simple first step - he's calling for an extra mandatory week of home quarantine for all those leaving isolation hotels.

"I think we could take a lot more proactive approach and act like you could be infectious and stay at home for that week."

He also wants those returning to limit social gatherings and get extra rapid tests before getting on the plane.

"I think the goal has to be we have no infected people touching down in NZ," he adds.

Health workers didn't have to deal with traffic chaos on Wednesday - only a few turned up for tests.

Counties Manukau DHB public health nurse Fonoifafo McFarland-Seumanu is one of the nurses brought up from Auckland to help.

"We are feeling very blessed to be here and help in this situation. We did a lot of work with COVID up in Auckland so we're happy we can help the nurses here in Whangarei," she says.

And for businesses shut after being visited by the infected woman - normality is returning.

The local butcher closed for a day and staff did a deep-clean. All of the staff were tested and produced negative results - and so it's back to business.

But this has been a week of immense anxiety and delays for Northlanders and health authorities know they need to do better.

"I don't think it's acceptable if people have to wait hours if it's hot and in a car and need access to bathroom facilities - so we are looking at ways we can get support from others," Dr Bloomfield says.

"For example, it might be the Civil Defence team or police to help with the management of those queues."

A more concerted effort - critical to avoid a repeat of the scenes that played out earlier this week.