Anti-Covid border between Raglan and Hamilton 'should be investigated' - mayor

Covid vaccinations in Raglan are lagging well behind the national averages.
Christel Yardley/Stuff
Covid vaccinations in Raglan are lagging well behind the national averages.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate says she wants to investigate the feasibility of setting up border controls between the city and Raglan, an ongoing Covid hotspot.

However, community leaders in the town are wary of “feeding into any drama” or pushing Raglanites too hard to get tested or vaccinated.

Three new cases in the Waikato were announced as part of Monday’s Covid figures, and Ministry of Health officials later confirmed all three were located in Raglan.

As of Monday afternoon, just one of those cases has been linked to the current outbreak.

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They contribute to an ongoing dribble of cases that is perpetuating the Waikato region’s Level 3 lockdown.

It was announced on Monday afternoon that the Waikato would remain at Alert Level 3 until at least Friday, to allow for further assessment of the situation.

The Waikato District Health Board does not currently have a Covid testing station set up in Raglan, and locals are instead being urged to head to the town’s medical centre if they are symptomatic.

Southgate said she would like a Hamilton-Raglan border to at least be investigated.

Of the 45 cases in the Waikato in this outbreak, 22 are or were Raglan residents, while 19 were Hamiltonians.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate: “If a border would keep Hamilton safe, it would be silly not to consider it.”
Tom Lee/Stuff
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate: “If a border would keep Hamilton safe, it would be silly not to consider it.”

Fine weather over the weekend had prompted many city-dwellers to head to the beach for a change of scene – but this could lead to cross-infections.

“I’m focused on the wellbeing of Hamilton. I love Raglan, but it isn’t a suburb of Hamilton,” she said.

“If a border would keep Hamilton safe, it would be silly not to consider it.”

Waikato District Council councillor Lisa Thomson said she was aware there was much scrutiny of the town, but she did not want to take a hard line on Raglanites, as such an approach could backfire.

Waikato District councillor Lisa Thomson:
Kelly Hodel/Stuff
Waikato District councillor Lisa Thomson:

Many who lived in or near the town already felt marginalised by society, and forcing people to get vaccinated or tested could “send people who are already vulnerable further underground”.

“You have to remember this is a virus. It doesn’t work determined on where you live or what you do.”

Thomson said she was still urging townsfolk to get vaccinated and tested.

“That’s without judgement. A lot of my whanau, they prefer to go to Māori health providers and Māori doctors and deal with faces where they see themselves reflected.”

Vaccination rates had recently surged in Raglan, she said.

As of Monday morning, the percentage of the population fully vaccinated in Raglan was 53.5 per cent – still well below the national average of 66 per cent.

And 74.4 per cent had taken the first vaccine dose, again lagging well behind the nationwide figure of 85 per cent.

Thomson said she did not want to comment on whether a hard border needed to be established between Raglan and Hamilton.

“What I can say [to Raglan residents] is get tested, wear your mask, continue to exercise social distancing.

“We all want to go back to whatever normal is.”

Raglan Community Board chairwoman Gabrielle Parson​ would not be drawn on her views on whether more Raglanites needed to be tested or vaccinated.

Nor would she comment on whether a checkpoint or some other form of border control was needed.

“What I will say is we need to carry on and be responsible. This is a caring, inclusive community where everybody is doing the best they can.”

Parson said she did “not want to feed into any drama” about the infection rate in the town.

“We just need to be kind and accept that people are doing what they need to do. I’m not going to be a policewoman about it.”

A health board spokeswoman was unable to confirm whether there were plans to set up another “pop-up” testing station in the town, given Monday’s figures.