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Get a test . . . Te Kaika Oamaru swabbing programme clinical lead Gillian Batrum (left) and trained swabbers Levi Sherman and Jan Goldsmith prepare for opening the Covid-19 testing station today. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Te Kaika’s Covid-19 testing centre is filling a gap in the Oamaru community.

More than 100 people used the Dunedin organisation’s testing centre at Oamaru’s Awamoa Park in its first two days last weekend.

Te Kaika Covid-19 response systems manager Raewyn Nafatali said it was a great start for the centre, and many North Otago residents were appreciative a drive›through testing service was available locally.

The Te Kaika team noticed many people were unfamiliar with the testing process, a testament to how well Oamaru has handled the virus over the past two years.

However, now Covid›19 was present in Oamaru and the Waitaki district, clear information for people to know when to get tested was important, Mrs Nafatali said.

‘‘We recommend that everyone is keeping a close eye on their health and getting a test as soon as you develop symptoms,’’ she said.

She expected the demand for testing in the Oamaru community would ‘‘ebb and flow’’.

Te Kaika is hoping to employ more testers in Oamaru, as the best way to engage with the community was ‘‘to keep it grassroots’’, and has vacancies advertised at present.

‘‘No-one knows the Oamaru community better than someone from Oamaru. There is a mutual trust established when you see one of your own caring for you.’’

As of Thursday, there were 26 Covid-19 cases in Waitaki, and 1740 across the Southern region.

The Southern DHB had issued a warning its Covid-19 testing teams were under ‘‘extreme pressure’’ and asked that Southland and Otago residents get tested only if they were experiencing flu-like symptoms — such as a cough, runny nose, or sore throat — or if they had been asked by hospital or Public Health staff to get a test.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said there was ‘‘obvious pressure’’ on the testing system, but Oamaru’s Te Kaika centre was there for those who needed it.

‘‘If people do have symptoms . . . then they should go and get tested,’’ Mr Kircher said.

‘‘The system is pretty good from there.’’

There was a lot of stress in the community about the arrival of Omicron in Oamaru and the Waitaki district, he said.

‘‘I do really encourage people, whatever their views are on it, it’s about looking after themselves and looking after others and it’s not about judging other people.

‘‘It’s about actually understanding people’s choices and getting on about doing what they can do to keep themselves and other people safe.’’

Te Kaika’s Oamaru testing centre is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 9am to 4pm.