Anticipating testing times in South

WellSouth Primary Health Network’s Moira Finn and Andrew Swanson-Dobbs are working on setting up...
WellSouth Primary Health Network’s Moira Finn and Andrew Swanson-Dobbs are working on setting up a Covid-19 swabbing site at the former Pizza Hut in Dunedin. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Dedicated Covid-19 testing centres are being set up in Dunedin and Invercargill as southern health providers prepare for the reappearance of the pandemic disease.

Although there has not been a community transmission case of Covid-19 in Otago or Southland for more than a year, the ongoing outbreak of the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus in the North Island has health planners resigned to the eventual return of the disease here.

Modelling suggests case numbers next year could range from a few hundred, if tight public health measures are maintained, to tens of thousands if they are not.

There were 145 cases on Saturday and 144 yesterday, including one in Hawke's Bay and a child who tested positive in Canterbury after travelling internationally.

Another person has died of the virus - a patient in their 80s who was admitted to North Shore Hospital on Thursday. The person died on Saturday night.

Preparations for an outbreak come amid increasing concern over the new Omicron variant of the virus, which led the Government to restrict travel from nine countries over the weekend.

Booster vaccinations will be available from today, the same day the Government will provide more detail about the country’s imminent move to the traffic light system.

General practices have handled Covid swabbing in the South in the past and primary health organisation WellSouth has established pop-up testing centres at hot spots when required.

WellSouth chief executive Andrew Swanson Dobbs said the high case numbers in the North Island and the likelihood of out-of-town travellers coming south over summer warranted the increase in testing capacity.

"There are regular increases in demand for testing and projections indicate this will continue, and likely increase further, in the coming months," he said.

“Our plan will strengthen weekend testing availability and sustainability of services in Dunedin and Invercargill and across the district.

"This is even more vital as the holiday season approaches and we are hosting visitors to our region.”

The Dunedin centre will be based in the former Pizza Hut building at 5 Malcolm St, but the site for the Invercargill centre is yet to be confirmed.

WellSouth intended both to be open for testing before the end of the year, Mr Swanson Dobbs said.

WellSouth planned for the centres to be open from 11am-7pm, seven days a week, and for testing to be available with or without appointments, either for drive-through or walk-in patients.

Nursing director Wendy Findlay said the centres were part of WellSouth’s plans to manage endemic Covid-19.

“We’re confident in our plans and we are preparing should Covid return to the southern region," she said.

"Early detection is critical and so making Covid testing even more readily available and visible, and keeping swabbing rates high, will help to keep our communities safe.”

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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