Covid-19: Small town doctors worried about influx of holiday visitors

Anxious rural doctors are worried about coping with the threat of Covid as people flock to small holiday settlements this summer.

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The virus was surging in many countries overseas making it more likely to arrive at New Zealand’s borders.

Chief executive of the Rural General Practice Network, Grant Davidson, said small town doctors were already feeling the pressure – especially after a tough year.

They were worried about the load on their small practices as people headed to baches, he said.

“There’s a just a general anxiety amongst already burnt out GPs in those areas,” he said.

Covid-19 modeller from Te Pūnaha Matatini, Shaun Hendy, said people’s lack of access to their regular doctor was a worry because it could make them more reluctant to get a test.

‘If they’re out of their home town they may not know where the testing centres are. And if they’re out at the beach those testing centres might be a long way away,” he said.

The big music festivals and concerts were a worry too.

“If a case did make it through isolation of quarantine and then a border worker picked it up and went to one of these events then that is a scenario where we could get wider spread,” Professor Hendy said.

It was a big plus that most of the festivals were outdoors because the virus did not spread as easily outside and in hot, dry weather, he said.

It was harder for Covid to hide during summer because there were fewer colds and coughs so if people did have symptoms the chance of it being Covid was higher and they would hopefully be tested, he said.

Summer also had the advantage that most people had fewer interactions, staying away from busy workplaces and public transport, he said.

In Northland, Ngāpuhi’s Covid team lead Tia Ashby said most people returning to the region were likely to stick close to family after a difficult year where many have not been able to see each other much.

While there was some anxiety about holidaymakers, they had put good plans in place with the Northland District Health Board including a roster that ensured there was a testing centre in the area open every day.

Waikato DHB said testing centres would switch between the Coromandel towns of Whitianga, Tairua, Coromandel and Whangamata during weekdays, with each town having testing two days a week.

However, that testing was only operating four days a week and not on public holidays so if people wanted to be tested those days they would need to go leave the area.

A DHB spokesperson said normal testing would be available at general practices. Most were only open weekdays.

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