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By CASS MARRETT

Queenstown-Lakes has the lowest unvaccinated, eligible population in the country, and is closing in on the 95% vaccination target.

As of Wednesday, 91.7% have had at least one dose — 61.9% of people in the district are fully vaxxed — and just 8.3% were yet to have a jab.

Queenstown Medical Centre boss Ashley Light says the key to reaching those still unvaccinated will be availability of the vaccine, and people rallying their friends and family to get them across the line.

But, he says, ‘‘we’ve got to acknowledge that there’s probably parts of the population that can’t get vaccinated for health reasons, and I think it’s important that we just recognise that we can’t persecute those [people] because they genuinely can’t get the vaccine.’’

In recent weeks Covid’s leaked into the Waikato and Northland, with an investigation currently underway as to how a man allegedly flew from Whangarei to Wellington and on to Queenstown without the relevant travel documents over the weekend.

He is presently self-isolating here, but has returned a negative Covid test.

To date, no cases have reached the South Island.

Light says if Covid were to arrive in Queenstown, the medical centre’s confident it’s equipped to manage it, and will be following guidance from the primary health organisation (PHO) and government.

‘‘We’ve been doing it for nearly two years … we’re doing everything we can to keep the community safe, but also all of our work colleagues and clinicians, Covid-free and safe.

‘‘We’re waiting for guidance from the PHO and the district health board around what the locality approach will be to what happens if, or when, Covid comes into community.

‘‘Certainly with the high vaccination rates, there’s a level of assurity that the impact would be lower than if we weren’t vaccinated,’’ Light says.

Southern DHB’s Dr Hywel Lloyd says the most important factor in planning for a Covid resurgence is vaccination numbers — in particular, good coverage of those most vulnerable, which is ‘‘vital’’ for the continuing efficient functioning of the health system.

‘‘The planning process has now shifted to look at how the health system will respond to a situation where Covid-19 is constantly within the community, and not just responding to isolated outbreaks.

‘‘These plans focus on when patients should be cared for in the community, and when they should be treated in hospital, and the roles hospitals and health care providers across the
district can play in this,’’ Lloyd says.

Vaccination, Queenstown-style

Queenstown’s TSS Earnslaw will be come a vaccination clinic for part of tomorrow’s ‘Super Saturday’.

RealNZ chief executive Stephen England-Hall sats the company wanted a creative way to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated tomorrow, so decided to turn the steamship’s saloon into a vaccination centre.

Anyone who wants to get their jab on the boat, between 7.30am and 11am, will spend their 15-minute observation time with a free coffee on the Earnie, with an option to also have a tour, and a chance to spin a wheel for a ‘‘trip or treat’’ on their way out — prizes include a free gourmet BBQ lunch at Walter Peak, RealNZ Milford Sound cruises, Doubtful Sound Wilderness cruises and jet-boat rides.

The Earnslaw, which will turn 109 on Monday, will remain at Steamer Wharf for the vaccinations, being carried out by the Life Pharmacy Wilkinsons team.

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz