Coronavirus: Woodville residents 'shocked' as COVID-19 reaches small Tararua town

By Jimmy Ellingham of RNZ 

Testing sites in Woodville have been busy on Monday following the discovery of two positive COVID-19 cases in the Tararua District town.

By early afternoon more than 100 people had experienced a swab up their nose at the Woodville Health Centre.

News of the two positive cases, who are linked and are isolating at home, spread quickly through the town on Sunday.

On that day, more than 320 people were tested, meaning a quarter of the town's 1600 people have now taken a test.

Those RNZ spoke to either had mild symptoms, wanted a test just in case, or had visited the town's location of interest - its Caltex petrol station.

Gail Roberts was thinking of her family.

"We've got a little granddaughter who's six years old, born in the Hutt, and she was in hospital five weeks premature, so I want to keep safe for [her].

"This is what it's all about. Get vaccinated, whānau. Protect yourself and friends."

The positive cases were the talk of the town, she said.

Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis said people were worried.

Woodville and the district's others towns, such as Pahīatua and Dannevirke, were unusually quiet on Monday.

On Sunday in particular there was a rush to get tested, and many people have already received their negative results, but others were still isolating while they waited.

"Everyone was initially quite shocked, but they knew this day would come. There's a lot of anxiety. There are people that know that they are a contact so we're seeing a lot of people going forward for testing," Collis said.

"Those numbers are still incredibly high today and that's actually across the three towns."

People regularly travelled between the district's centres, and that was reflected in locations of interest in Woodville and Pahīatua, where Farmlands is on the Health Ministry list.

Many council facilities were closed on Monday while staff were at home waiting for test results.

Collis felt for the district's businesses, some of which had decided to run under alert level 3 precautions.

"This town, in Woodville, is normally bustling, so it's quite sad to see in some respects, but very good to see they are taking this incredibly seriously. Nobody wants a spread or an outbreak here."

Many people, such as Yummy Mummy's Cheesecakes manager, Sera Williams, were philosophical about the news.

She hoped people wouldn't be scared of stopping in Woodville, which was still open for business.

"It was going to happen eventually. It's no surprise really. We get a lot of tourists through here, so it was only a matter of time."

Tararua Health Group registered nurse Bronwyn Foreman has swabbed dozens of people at the health centre.

Many were symptomatic or had been in contact with the positive cases or locations of interest.

"Most of the ones we've done today are double vaxed, so they're feeling quite good about it. They just want to do their bit and make sure it's not out and about in the community."

A block away, nurses at Woodville Medicine Depot were vaccinating people as the Tararua District pushes toward 90 percent.

The district is lagging behind others in the MidCentral District Health Board region, with a first-dose rate of about 86 percent. MidCentral's is 89 percent and nationwide it is 90 percent.

Nurse Amanda Bromell said news of positive cases appeared to have shaken people from their malaise, as the virus was closer to home.

She had also seen people who were under pressure from their families or friends to get their shots.