Pressure mounts on Kaitāia township as locals battle Delta

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Rukuwai Tipene Allen contributed to this article.

Kaitaia Hospital staff are under the pump getting as many of the locals tested following the spate of Delta cases in the community. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health confirmed a new case connected to the pair in Taipa.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that there were 1,833 tests taken across Northland yesterday and 1,552 vaccinations were given, including 443 first doses. Those who live in or around Taipa, Kaingaroa, Awanui and Kaitaia and have had symptoms of Covid-19 in the last couple of weeks, are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible. 

Darren Tatana made the 20-minute trip from Herekino in the west to Kaitaia to be tested as a "precaution". He received his first vaccination yesterday, the first in his whānau. The threat of Covid 19 is all too real for him as this week his three children in Auckland have all tested positive for the virus

“I got my first shot and need to get my second one so I can go see my kids. They’re in West Auckland .. They’re all isolated in their whare at the moment, their mum is isolated at her whare.”

The Kaitaia township plays a critical role in providing essential services. Not only to its locals - but also surrounding communities stretching from Te Hapua in the north down to Mitimiti, Hokianga in the west and across to the East Coast settlements across the Far North,

10 cases active

The town and regions in the Far North went back into lockdown on Tuesday at midnight following two cases confirmed in the region.

As of Thursday there are now 10 active Covid 19 cases in the region.

Kaitaia Business Association chair Andrea Panther describes Kaitaia as a service town, servicing an estimated 23,000 people across the Far North within a 180- kilometre radius.

Within this area there is only one supermarket, which puts added pressure, fear and anxiety on the residents.

“From Panguru it's more than an hour to drive. From Te Kao it's an hour and a half to get to town. So some of our communities rely on Kaitaia. And we only have one supermarket for this entire area.”

On Wednesday, Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust deputy chair Hugh Karena said there was a huge concern that the virus may spread across the region. He says iwi in the Far North are being proactive and assisting whānau who are positive.

Iwi's helping hand

He said Hone Harawira is making check-in calls to all those infected. The iwi is ensuring they have kai, water, medicine, and all things needed to make sure they are comfortable and supported during their time in self-isolation. 

Māori vaccination rates still remain low in the region. Only 48% of the eligible population have had their second dose. 

Covid 19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was asked today whether there were any lessons learned from the Māori vaccine rollout and whether that would change the way prioritisation will work for possible booster shots. However, he maintained that prioritisation of the elderly was the best choice and that decision had helped with hospitalisation numbers. 

Māori make up 40 to 50% of daily cases and the numbers in the outbreak continue to grow.

The Kaitaia Business Association, although tasked with supporting businesses, welcomed the snap lockdown, but remains critical of the government's target of a 90% vaccination rate. Panther says that strategy will not work for the people of her community in the Far North.

“It's highly unlikely our area will get to 90% but we would always be held at ransom there that we will never be let out, and that’s really difficult for businesses to keep going.”