District doing quite well for virus tests

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Hello again Waitaki!

It’s fantastic to be writing another column for the Oamaru Mail after the past few weeks of not having the paper. I want to congratulate the Oamaru Mail team for the work they have continued to do, sharing news on social media while the paper itself was in hibernation over the lockdown – to Rebecca and the team, you have adapted well and continued to share the news of Waitaki as best as possible, thank you!

Over the past four weeks, I’ve also continued to share information as best as possible. Some of that has been working with our amazing Waitaki District Council team getting information out by various means – leaflets, a letter included with your rates account, media releases and social media. I have also been getting a lot of information out via my Facebook page.

One of the regular questions I get asked is how much testing for Covid-19 is being done in Waitaki. In fact, there appear to be some serious misconceptions that there hasn’t been testing here at all, which is incorrect. We have had good testing all the way through this lockdown, and that will continue for a considerable time to come.

Every Tuesday, the southern mayors have a weekly meeting with the Southern District Health Board (SDHB), and they’ve been able to provide us with the relative numbers of testing for each district across Otago and Southland. Testing capacity had been limited, but growing for the past month or more. The capacity to test samples by laboratories around New Zealand is significantly greater than it was. And there are now 78 community-based assessment centres (CBACs) active and 55 designated practices/swabbing centres/mobiles across the country taking swab samples. That includes a number of our own GP practices across Waitaki.

The usual daily average for New Zealand is now more than 4000 tests per day, and there is an overall capacity to carry out over 6000 tests per day. As that number has grown, the criteria for testing have broadened so more people are getting tested, increasing the confidence that positive cases are being caught more often, and earlier.

The SDHB region is doing well with overall numbers of tests being carried out, with one of the highest testing rates in the country. Having said that, it also due to the fact that the southern region has had a large number of positive cases per capita, so there has been a higher number of people with symptoms to be tested. It is one of those situations where careful analysis needs to be done on the statistics to ensure that incorrect assumptions aren’t made on causality – that is, confusing the cause with the effect.

The last information on how many people have been tested in Waitaki showed us sitting around 14 per 1000, meaning we have had approximately 300 people tested overall. In comparison with the country-wide averages, that puts us in a pretty good position, considering that we have had fewer people showing symptoms (and, of course, no locals showing symptoms who have actually tested positive yet).

But we cannot be complacent.

We are in this position because of many people working hard to do the right thing, plus a good serving of luck.

I’m very proud of everything our community has done to make life safer for our most vulnerable people.

Please stay safe, stay home, and keep saving lives.

  • Gary Kircher is the Mayor for Waitaki.