A testing station for COVID-19 has been set up in Whakatane and started testing patients on Tuesday. The single-purpose clinic in Whakatane, has been set up by Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and there are plans to establish sites in Opotiki and Kawerau. Testing stations are off-site from any other operations and testing is based on strict criteria with referrals made by GPs and Healthline.

In addition to the testing stations, plans have been made for community-based assessment centres (CBACs) specifically for COVID-19 and are ready to be launched if they become necessary. CBACs will provide assessment and triage services including advice, testing, medication when appropriate and referrals, and will supplement existing primary health care capacity.

Clinical Director of the Eastern Bay of Plenty Primary Health Alliance, Dr Rachel Shouler stresses that those with flu symptoms should not panic and not to walk in to the GP if you have a suspected case. “Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza. Having these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. However, if you have recently travelled overseas or had known contact with a suspected case, and have fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or flu symptoms, call your GP or Healthline and they can assess your next steps and refer you to testing if you meet the criteria.”

COVID-19 can cause acute respiratory infection ranging from mild to severe. Most infected people experience a mild to moderate illness, for example, fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

If you or your family are unwell, self-isolation is the best first step, says Med Central Medical Director Dr Jethro Le Roy. “Practice good self-care, drink lots of water, eat nourishing food and get some rest. Manage your symptoms and if you are concerned then call your GP.”

“This is a good time to practice good hygiene, wash your hands regularly using water and soap for 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t access soap, and stay away from work, school and large gatherings if you are sick.”

It’s important to us that managing the COVID-19 response in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is a partnership that puts community first, says Te Puna Ora O Mataatua CEO Dr Chris Tooley. “The EBOPHA and TPOOM are proud to be working in partnership to ensure an effective local response is provided to support our community”.

For regular updates on COVID-19, local information is available at toiteora.govt.nz and national information at health.govt.nz.