The 90% Project: Napier Port CEO says Delta’s arrival in Hawke’s Bay is ‘imminent’. How prepared are we?

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is coming to Hawke’s Bay – and it’s not a matter of if but when, say Napier Port chief executive Todd Dawson.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signalled that New Zealand’s Covid elimination strategy was coming to an end – detailing how Auckland would begin to “transition” down alert levels.

Ardern said it was “okay” that the country had returned to zero cases of the virus as vaccines were now available.

The change in approach still meant using existing tools of “vaccinate, testing, finding cases and isolating” where needed, she said.

Dawson says in a Talking Point in Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay Today that it is “almost inevitable, and imminent”, that Delta will arrive in Hawke’s Bay.

He writes that the approach of keeping the community isolated from the risk of exposure to the deadly disease is thinking that was now “outdated”.

“We are currently consulting with our workforce and port users to determine how Napier Port stays safe, open and operational with Delta in our community,” he said.

“We are asking our people for their views on mandatory vaccination of all employees (not just the frontline team) and wider port users.

“We’re consulting on port access and segregation controls and potentially implementing our own operating alert levels within our port sites.”

He said the region’s first rapid-saliva testing unit arrived at Napier Port this week.

“It will allow us to test people at our port sites and get a result within 30 minutes,” Dawson said.

“We have robust safety processes for managing and working ships with Delta on board.

“Closing Napier Port isn’t an option, unless we want to close our region.”

Is Hawke's Bay prepared for an outbreak?

If an outbreak were to occur, Wairoa is the Hawke’s Bay district with the most people fully vaccinated.

But like the rest of the region, it is still well short of 90 per cent fully vaccinated.

As of September 27, it was Central Hawke’s Bay with 41.5 per cent, Hastings with 44.1 per cent, Napier with 45 per cent and Wairoa 48 per cent.

But Wairoa likely remains the most vulnerable district to an outbreak as the percentage of the population not vaccinated at all on Monday was 34.9 per cent, behind Hastings at 26, Central Hawke’s Bay at 25.7 and Napier at 25.3.

Wairoa District mayor Craig Little said everything was being done to get vaccinations numbers up, but if an outbreak did occur the vulnerable would bear the brunt of it.

“We have quite a few older people with underlying medical conditions who wouldn’t be able to cope, and will probably be the first to go.”

He said Wairoa wasn’t ready for an outbreak, and it was mostly down to people who did not want to get vaccinated due to prevailing misinformation around the vaccine.

“The Government has done a fantastic job of it, we are all doing what we can, but misinformation is the biggest problem.

“I urge people to listen to the experts.”

CHB District mayor Alex Walker said the five Hawke’s Bay councils had created a Regional Leadership Group in response to the Delta outbreak.

“Working closely with the chair and chief executive of the DHB and iwi, as well as lead public service officials across Civil Defence, MSD, FENZ, Police and Education, means we are as connected and prepared as we can be.”

But she said a “far clearer road map to work with” was required.

Napier City mayor Kirsten Wise said the city was prepared in case of an outbreak.

“Compared to many other regions, Hawke’s Bay hosts a very high number of medium-sized events. Our total events industry is estimated to be worth approximately $20 million (at 2019 levels),” Wise said.

“We are also very reliant on domestic tourism. This makes it particularly important that nationally our vaccination levels reach the 90 per cent that modelling suggests is needed, so that we can do away with the need for lockdowns.”

However, she said the council was prepared to go into another lockdown if mandated by the Government.

“The two previous lockdowns give us experience to draw from.”

Hastings District Council was keeping a “constant watch” on the situation, said mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

“We are set up so that essential services can continue, and have protocols in place to keep our staff and community safe.”

Haumoana resident Renae Burridge received her first vaccine on Monday at the Taradale Club vaccination centre.

To those holding out on the jab for any reason she had this message: “Just get it done so we can all go back to normal life. It doesn’t even hurt, I didn’t feel a thing.”

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