Door-to-door Covid-19 testing in Auckland is being hailed by a public health expert as an important tool in helping Auckland emerge from a costly lockdown.
Mobile test vans have been visiting the suburbs where the virus has been circulating and knocking on doors to offer tests and vaccinations.
The average number of Covid-19 cases has been trending downward, but in recent weeks, very slowly.
Four weeks ago, the average daily number of cases was 37. The following week it nearly halved to 19, but since then it has been slow: 17 the following week and then 15 average daily cases in the last seven days.
University of Otago public health professor Dr. Nick Wilson said the tail of this outbreak is proving “stubborn.”
“This tail is a problem. It means we have to seriously think about a variety of different approaches,” Dr. Wilson said.
One of those that is already happening is door-to-door testing.
In Auckland, health authorities are focusing their efforts on identifying new cases in six suburbs: Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa and Mount Wellington / Sylvia Park.
Wilson said going from street to street in at-risk suburbs is smart.
“Given the cost to Auckland of this outbreak continuing, we really need to do absolutely everything that can help us eliminate this outbreak,” he said.
“[Door-to-door testing] will help remove barriers to access. It is definitely the best way to focus resources on communities where there are still cases. “
It could even be expanded further, he said, to end this persistent virus.
There is also another group of people at risk who do not get vaccinated much and are likely not to be tested: drug users.
The Drug Foundation said that some users would disconnect from society and government services, and fighting addiction or other disadvantages meant that a test or vaccine was not in the foreground.
Executive Director Sarah Helm said only 14 percent of drug users who receive treatment are fully vaccinated.
“We are really looking forward to seeing a renewed strategy that goes all-out in support of helping people who use drugs get vaccinated and tested,” Helm said.
“Maybe we have some transmission within the community of people who use drugs.”
He would like the government to work with services that drug users trust, such as needle exchanges and addiction treatment providers.
It is essential for the entire population that we reach everyone in the country, “Helm said.
“If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that it ignores inequality at its own risk, because it will affect other parts of the downstream community.”
The Health Ministry and Northern Region DHBs said they have sent and will continue to send mobile testers to parts of Auckland with Covid clusters.
They’re also offering Covid hits at the same time, with registered vaccinators on board just feet from someone’s door.