The Ngaruahine covid testing station in Stratford was much quieter on Saturday.
Only time will show whether Covid-19 got into Stratford’s wastewater via a local or a visitor, a Taranaki health boss says.
On Friday, it was confirmed that an Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) wastewater sample taken in the town on Monday, November 1, had come back with a “strong positive” Covid result.
The sample either came from one or more people with an active infection who used the toilet in Stratford, or visitors travelling in campervans could have put black water into a dump station during the 24-hour period of the sample, the Taranaki District Health Board (DHB) said.
‘’It is not possible to say which is the most likely scenario,” Rosemary Clements, DHB chief executive acting incident management team controller, wrote in an emailed statement.
“However, if the subsequent wastewater tests are negative it is more likely that the viral fragments came from a visitor.’’
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Since the wastewater result became known there have been 1123 covid tests, with 758 results returned, all of which were negative.
Both the Taranaki Garden Festival and Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival were running last week, attracting visitors from across the country, including Tauranga, Coromandel, Invercargill, Queenstown, Nelson and Hawke’s Bay.
Clements said she was pleased with emergency health response efforts since the positive result came in.
‘’Our response planning was in place ready for resurgence and this happened seamlessly thanks to great community collaboration and the public’s cooperation to get tested and vaccinated.
‘’As the response continues, we are looking at a more convenient way to provide a sample for Covid-19 testing.’’
Saliva testing has been utilised by some workplaces in the private sector in recent months to test essential workers crossing alert level boundaries, and this is something Taranaki DHB is interested in implementing, Clements said.
“We are looking to introduce a health model where saliva testing is delivered by our Māori Health providers to their Māori communities. We hope to have this model operational as soon as it can be facilitated.’’
Ngāti Ruanui leader and Te Pati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said people visiting to tour the gardens had stayed in camper vans and could have used the dump station in Stratford before leaving.
“Or it could be whānau, families, who are infected but don’t know.’’
The weekend was a good preparation for next time, she said.
Ngati Ruanui had planned a Super Saturday Two, but cancelled it so their nurses could go to Stratford and carry out testing.
Taranaki has not had a Delta Covid-19 case, but the region has had several coronavirus scares this year.
In July, ESR confirmed a positive test had been detected in New Plymouth’s wastewater, which sparked a big jump in Covid testing. No cases were detected.
The region has also faced scares involving foreign fishing vessels with infected mariners on board, and when a family travelled to the region at Waitangi weekend before testing positive.