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Collaboration . . . Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group community connectors Mafa Alaloto (left) and Lauao Havili are offering Covid-19 welfare support in Waitaki. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Mafa Alaloto and Lauao Havili know isolation can feel daunting and overwhelming.

But the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group (OPICG) community connectors are hoping to alleviate the stress by launching a new service for Covid-19 welfare support. It is designed to support those who test positive for Covid or are self-isolating.

The welfare programme, a collaboration between the ministries of health and social development, local community providers and iwi partners, will help address the immediate hardship people experience when they are unable to access everyday services.

Ms Alaloto and Miss Havili can help with groceries and pharmaceutical needs, and can help people access services including mental health, family violence, anger management, and health and safety programmes.

Ms Alaloto, Miss Havili and OPICG general manager Hana Halalele will form a triage team, answering calls from those in need, and if they are unable to help, they can refer people to other agencies. People can be referred to the welfare programme through health organisations, or self-refer by calling 027 415-2129.

Ms Alaloto said a needs assessment would be completed and the programme was tailored to each individual’s needs.

Self-isolating, or contracting Covid, could be ‘‘really frustrating’’ and people often forgot to seek help in their time of need, she said.

The welfare support programme was open to everyone in Waitaki, and Ms Alaloto and Miss Havili encouraged people to also create a plan for their homes.

Miss Havili said organising the welfare programme had been a ‘‘huge piece of work’’, but it was going to be beneficial for the community.

‘‘I think just having someone local might give [people] peace of mind to know that there is someone that is there to support them through self-isolation, which is scary because they’ve never had to do it before,’’ Miss Havili said.

‘‘Also it will good for us to know what the needs are of our community in a pandemic. Just for our reporting to highlight what is happening on the ground.’’

She encouraged people not to panic as Omicron spread, because there was plenty of support available. Miss Havili, Ms Alaloto and Mrs Halalele will be on call from 8am to 8pm for people needing help.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said if a lot of people were self isolating in Waitaki, or got Covid-19, additional resources could be brought in to ensure everyone was looked after.

Discussions with Te Kaika regarding a semi-permanent testing station in Waitaki were under way, and people should continue to get vaccinated, Mr Kircher said.

Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS) chief executive Keith Marshall had a clear message to the community — get vaccinated, wear masks, keep washing and sanitising hands, isolate when required, and use the Covid-19 tracer app.

‘‘Most importantly of all, look after yourself, your family and your friends,’’ Mr Marshall said.

Oamaru Hospital was operating with a ‘‘heightened sense of alertness’’, taking extra care over screening, mask use, and in restricting visitor access to the hospital and services.

‘‘Our collective mission is to ensure that our community and key healthcare workers are as safe as possible. That means that, while some measures might seem onerous, the intent is absolutely not to inconvenience anyone, but is all about keeping all of us safe.’’

WDHS was taking direction from the Southern DHB and adjustments would be made as needed, he said.

‘‘Ultimately, there can be plenty of reassurance in knowing that there really is an amazing team of people here right across our health services, both here at the hospital and throughout our community; every single one of us is doing their utmost to keep everyone safe and well.’’