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Business as usual for Stewart Island after news of weak-positive Covid test

Refunds are being offered for those with Stewart Island travel plans, however people do not appear to be in a hurry to leave after news of a weak-positive Covid test.
Community testing will begin on Stewart Island after a child returned a weak positive Covid-19 test result.

Rachael Don/Stuff

Community testing will begin on Stewart Island after a child returned a weak positive Covid-19 test result.

Refunds are being offered for those with Stewart Island travel plans, however people do not appear to be in a hurry to leave.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health confirmed a child on the island returned a weak-positive test in pre-departure testing.

The child has subsequently tested negative and members of their family, who are residents on the island, have also tested negative.

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris said there had been a few cancellations since news of the weak-positive test broke.

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“We’re happy to rebook or refund anyone who has any concerns about travelling to the island," he said.

Staff had been offered support but were well-versed in Covid-19 protocols as the ferry had operated as an essential service during the national lockdown, he said.

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There was one passenger on a flight that returned from Stewart Island on Thursday afternoon, who was a worker for the airline, and there did not appear to be a deluge of people leaving.

Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said there had been no flight cancellations between Invercargill and Stewart Island.

Jensen Bay House owner Manfred Herzoff said islanders were taking it in their stride.

“The islanders are very much conscientious and alert, but also very resilient and in a positive mood to have done their best being team players in our fight against Covid.”

Bay Motel staff member Wayne Sheard agreed and said people were going about life as normal and there wasn’t a lot of change.

He had a few bookings for the weekend made on Thursday, he said.

Department of Conservation Southern South Island operations director Aaron Fleming said bookings for the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks, were generally low this time of the year.

Bookings showed two hikers were on the track on Thursday night, but all visitors to public conservation land were expected to follow Covid-19 protocols, he said.

Stewart Island ward councillor Bruce Ford said it was business as usual on the island as people were taking the news of a weak positive test "in their step."

"We're just going about the day as normal," he said.

He and his wife had been down to the pop-up testing centre around the corner to get their swabs but after negative results from the child's family, the community were fairly confident they were just following protocol.

"We're not expecting anything extraordinary [from the results]," Ford said.

Many in the community were learning about the situation as they went along, he said, adding that they were a resilient group.

"We are accustomed to all manner of things. We're strong, healthy people," Ford said.

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