Community surveillance testing was rolled out in Oamaru on Tuesday to check for undetected cases of Covid-19.
More than 300 asymptomatic people were tested for Covid-19 at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church and Alliance Group’s Pukeuri meat works by public health service WellSouth.
The aim of the testing was to pick up undetected community spread of the virus, which would form part of the Government’s decision about when to enter alert Level 2, WellSouth practice network director Paul Rowe said.
About 1500 people in the community had been tested over the past week, and there was yet to be a positive confirmed case, Mr Rowe said.
The meat works was chosen because it was a large essential-service provider, and the Pasifika community because it was an “at risk” group, he said.
“There has been a really strong community response and it’s been so good we have had no positive [cases],” he said.
Although Covid-19 testing was not guaranteed to pick up the virus in every instance, the widespread nature of the testing meant if there were no positive results, it could rule out the presence of the virus in a community, Mr Rowe said.
“All of these people are asymptomatic, so the chances of there being a false negative are fairly slim,” he said.
“That’s why the Government announces suspected cases as well as confirmed cases, for those people with symptoms that suggest they are probably positive.”
Nurses carrying out the tests were assisted by other health professionals such as dentists and physiotherapists, who had been unable to continue their normal jobs.
“It has been all hands to the pump,” Mr Rowe said.
“At times like this it’s been really great to work in such a community-focused way.”
Every person who was tested would be contacted about their results within 72 hours, he said.
Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group president Hana Halalele said it was a good opportunity for the Pasifika community to be tested for the presence of Covid-19.
“We are a vulnerable community, in terms of equity and resources,” Mrs Halalele said.
“We live in intergenerational homes, and crowded spaces as well. If one person in the family gets sick it affects everybody.
“If there is transmission in the community we are very vulnerable.
“I know it’s a scary thing but we all have a role to play, and it’s important we do what we can to keep our families and communities safe.”
North Otago’s Pasifika community was coping with the lockdown “as best as possible”, she said.
“We are really missing our wider extended bubbles, but we can hang in there because everyone has an important role to play.”
First in line for the testing in Oamaru was Tima Taiti, who was not fazed by the procedure.