Health authorities swabbed 24 people for Covid-19 at a mobile testing centre in Ashburton last weekend and more testing of target groups is planned in Rakaia on Saturday to check the disease is not undetected in Mid Canterbury.
Last weekend’s tests returned negative results and just three cases of the virus have been recorded in the district since the pandemic began.
Ashburton’s community-based assessment centre at Ashburton Hospital has tested more than 400 people since it was set up.
Dr Sarah Clarke said it was important for people with symptoms to be tested and wider community testing results would help provide the data that would inform government decisions about restrictions going forward.
People with a runny nose, cough, sore throat or other respiratory symptoms were encouraged to head along to the Hampstead Rugby Club grounds on Saturday. Cars began lining up before the 1pm start and people were swabbed by members of a specialist team of clinicians organised by the Canterbury Primary Response Group.
Dr Clarke said the low number seeking testing may be because of less sickness in the community in general because of the lockdown, or because Kiwis were fobbing off mild symptoms as a case of the sniffles.
“We really do want to try and capture everyone who has symptoms, even if they do not think they are at risk of Covid-19,” she said.
People should see their doctor or ring Healthline for advice.
The targetted testing was aimed at those who might not do either of those options.
“People found it reassuring to have had a test done,” Dr Clarke said.
After pressure from Ashburton mayor Neil Brown and Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon, the Canterbury District Health Board now breaks down Covid-19 figures for the Canterbury region.
As as Tuesday April 28, there were three cases in Ashburton, 13 in Selwyn, 17 in Waimakariri, four in Kaikoura and three in Hurunui. There were 122 cases in Christchurch city and the combined number of cases for the Canterbury DHB area was 162.
Mr Brown said Mid Canterbury people needed to keep practising good hygiene and physical distancing even as the alert levels began to ease.
The country moved from Alert Level 4 to 3 on Tuesday and government will review its decision on May 11 about further de-escalation.
Mr Brown said he and Mr Falloon had until last week not been privvy to any data about the virus in the Ashburton District.
“I sought the information from the Ministry of Health in an effort to help our community appreciate just how important it is that we are all following the lockdown rules, and continue to do what the Government asks of us.”
He said people should not become complacent about their health and the health of others.
Ashburton senior sergeant Leigh Jenkins said while the overwhelming majority of Mid Canterbury people had been sticking to the lockdown rules, a small number of breaches had been recorded since March 26; nationally there were 5857 breaches of the Civil Defence Emergency and Health Acts.
“At Alert Level 3 there are still restrictions and we need to continue sticking to the rules. That means staying at home as much as possible, limiting any travel and sticking to your household bubble.”
He said police would continue to be highly visible in communities and on roads to maintain public safety, security and order. They would take an education-first approach and not hesitate to take enforcement action, either through warnings or arrests, for any serious or persistent breaches.