Covid 19 Delta outbreak: ‘Underbelly of Te Awamutu’ blamed for being stuck in ‘level 3 hell’ – local councillor

Covid is spreading within “Te Awamutu’s underbelly”, according to a town councillor.

The origins of what has quickly become Waikato’s biggest Covid cluster may link back to a person who allegedly brought drugs into the region almost a month ago.

As of this afternoon, there were 36 cases in Te Awamutu/Kihikihi and a total 91 in the Waikato.

Numerous sources have told the Herald they are connected to well-known methamphetamine houses in Kihikihi and Te Awamutu.

The Te Awamutu/Kihikihi cases are also close contacts of the two new cases in Otorohanga that emerged over the weekend, as well as a third person who travelled from Rotorua via Tokoroa to Blenheim while infected.

The Waipa District Council’s Te Awamutu ward councillor, Marcus Gower, has aired his frustrations over the growing number of cases in the town blaming the “underbelly of Te Awamutu” for ruining it for everyone else who was sticking to the rules.

“I’m really disappointed that the underbelly of Te Awamutu and the people doing meth are ruining it for our local community and we can’t get out of this level 3 hell because there’s a small percentage of the community ruining it for all of us.”

It was his understanding that most of the Te Awamutu cases had been moved to a Community Isolation Quarantine facility. He hoped anyone with links to drugs were getting the support they needed there.

As of last Thursday, about a quarter of the people infected with Covid in the Waikato were isolating at home.

Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest said there were rumours circulating around about it being spread around drug users, but he hadn’t heard anything official.

Mylchreest had not had any direct contact from the DHB throughout the outbreak, but it was his understanding that the current Te Awamutu cases were from one household event or a series of contacts so were all closely linked.

“There’s been no sign of any secondary spread that I’ve been made aware of.”

The district’s high vaccination levels might be saving the community from a wider outbreak, he said.

Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter said the two people from Otorohanga who had tested positive at the weekend were close contacts of a Te Awamutu case and he was hoping there was no further spread in the area. There has been a steady stream of people going through the testing station.

Baxter was also aware of the rumours of its origins, but said he refused to listen to rumours.

Earlier this month the Herald reported Hamilton’s index case was someone with a long criminal history of drug dealing supplying outlying communities such as Raglan and Kawhia for a number of years.

Last week the Waikato DHB merged the Kihikihi cases with the Te Awamutu ones to protect the privacy of those individuals.

A Waikato DHB spokesperson said there was always a concern that there would be unidentified cases in the region during an outbreak due to people not feeling comfortable getting tested.

“This is made increasingly likely when we see bullying or other negative behaviours towards those who are exposed to this virus, which we know can affect all people from all walks of life.”

The DHB remained focused on the public health management of this virus and wanted to reassure people who came forward to Public Health that it would be in confidence.

“Anyone with Covid-19 has the same right to patient privacy as any other DHB patient. The DHB’s job is to provide support to those individuals and protect the community.”

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