Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer laments COVID-19 preparation in Taranaki as testing site runs out of swabs

Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is frustrated by a lack of preparation for COVID-19 in Stratford after a testing site ran out of swabs. 

Health officials have been scrambling to find the source of COVID-19 in Taranaki after it was detected in a wastewater test from Stratford.

A sample taken in the town on Monday returned a 'strong positive' on Thursday night, which has suddenly jolted the quiet rural town into action.

Residents have responded in force to the urgent call to get tested.

Around the corner from the testing centre, the local iwi was swabbing and jabbing. 

"I had flu-like symptoms a couple days ago," one person said.

"We've got different people working in the cow shed at home where I'm going to milk soon, so I'll be a bit safe," added another.

The testing site was so busy that it ran out of swabs, to the frustration of the Maori Party co-leader.  

"Frustrating, it goes to show that as a region we weren't prepared for a surge in testing so I think there's a lot to be learnt from this," Maori Party Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer tells Newshub.

"It shows there is overwhelming demand, rather than lack of supplies."

News of COVID-19 in the wastewater has locals on edge.

"It's a bit scary, I think everyone feels anxious," one local says.

"It's quite concerning Taranaki has a low rate of vaccination compared to the rest of the country," said another.

Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke was warning residents to be careful until the source of transmission is found.  

"It's a real concern, until we find a source of COVID, then we're all at risk."

It is a risk that some are choosing to ignore.

"I've just got a feeling it's a scare tactic," one local says.

But health officials are fearing the worst.

"It was a strong positive test and what that means is it's likely it was a person with an active infection," Jonathan Jarman from Taranaki DHB says. 

Taranaki has one of the lowest vaccination rates, with just 68 percent fully immunised.

And after Friday's COVID scare, it's driving a few more to get the jab. 

Watch the full story above.