COVID-19: Northland case Rosalina Puhi opens up on flood of community support received since revealing status to community

There are four cases of COVID-19 in Northland, all from the same family. Rosalina Puhi is one of them and she decided to reveal her status to her rural community.

Before she knew it hundreds more knew about her but she doesn't regret it as she says it's allowed Northlanders to ask her questions about the virus, now in their midst.

It's been a busy 24 hours for Rosalina Puhi since she and three of her family members tested positive for COVID-19.

"It's only day two since we've had our positive results and we've got 12 days to go, that's a lot of days," she says.

As soon as her results were in, she shared them on her local Mangamuku community Facebook page, saying she wanted to let people know so no one else would be treated as a suspect.

But her message reached a few more people than she intended.

"Oh my goodness, I thought that if you put something on your community page only people on the page could see it. By the time I got back onto Facebook it had been shared 200 times," she says.

Her post has now been shared almost 600 times.

"It really opened up the door for people to communicate and ask questions without any fear," Puhi says.

Because fear is spreading faster than COVID in Kaikohe. A joint iwi-and general practice vaccination effort is encouraging those on the fence.

"We've found that the misinformation around vaccinations has created heightened anxiety," says Broadway Health CEO Jesse Hoskins.

Many of those who arrived with questions today ended up changing their minds and getting the jab

"I was a bit hesitant at first but thought I'd keep the community safe eh," one person said.

"We've heard of people dying and things like that but you have to do what you do because I have health issues," another added.

Ngati Hine and Ngapuhi iwi have joined forces to set up vaccination and testing sites across the region where vaccination rates are among the country's lowest.

"We need to all get in behind these communities like Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Moerewa," Ngati Hine Health Trust CEO Geoff Milner says.

Most local hospitals aren't equipped to receive COVID patients. Here vaccination really is the only defence.

"If there's an outbreak in Kaikohe and our communities are really hit with the brunt of Delta, we don't have the tools to save everyone and that I think is the worst reality for us," Hoskins says.

There are a handful of locations of interest that were quickly identified thanks to Puhi's cooperation.

The local petrol station and supermarket are among them as well as locations in Opononi and Kaitaia.

Puhi's found a silver lining in front-footing her diagnosis.

"The support has been absolutely amazing from the community," she says.

"Once I realised it had a positive effect on people and that my ultimate quest for our community was to feel safe."

And protected against the virus now that Delta has arrived in Northland.