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Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Rowena Duncum


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

Rowena was a dairy farmer and won the Taranaki Farm Manager of the Year. She swapped her red bands for radio and has been the executive producer of The COuntry since 2016.

Failing to prepare . .


When Covid-19 first struck and the government was requiring incoming travellers to self-isolate they relied on trust.

It often didn’t work.

The experience with the DJ who brought Omicron across the border shows they haven’t learned from that.

Why couldn’t they follow examples from overseas?

In Japan for example, someone I know moved there, had to self-isolate and for two weeks received video calls at random times to ensure she was in the apartment where she was supposed to be.

Friends in the USA who had travelled overseas had to self-isolate on their return and had to wear electronic monitoring devices while they did it.

That something similar to one or other of these systems isn’t available here is yet another example of the government’s failure to prepare.

Dare we hope they are preparing for community transmission of Omicron and the pressure that will put on testing services?

The Medical Laboratory Science Institute says the government needs to rethink who and how it tests for Covid-19, or it risks overrunning the country’s labs.

President Terry Taylor said the measures to combat Covid-19 spread were designed to prevent frontline hospital services from being overrun.

However, he said international examples show diagnostic services could also be swamped. . . 

One solution to that is access to rapid testing:

The Government must get ready for the transmission of omicron in the community by ensuring we have enough supply of rapid tests in New Zealand and making them available to vaccinated and unvaccinated people through pharmacies and supermarkets, says National’s COVID-19 Response Spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Rapid antigen tests are widely available for the public to buy and use overseas, allowing in-home testing with results available in as little as 15 minutes. But public use of these tests are effectively banned in New Zealand – that needs to change.

“The Government accepts that omicron is likely to make its way into the community at some point. The evidence from overseas is that omicron spreads incredibly quickly – and it is likely that it will very quickly overwhelm our standard PCR testing and contract tracing system, which struggled to keep up even with delta.

“During the delta outbreak in August some people queued for up to 12 hours for nasal PCR tests, and many tests still take longer than 48 hours to be returned.

I was celebrant at a funeral last week. The dead woman’s only grandson wasn’t able to be with the family when I met them because he had a sore throat, wasn’t able to have a rapid test because he was vaccinated and had to wait for a PCR test result, even though there was a risk it might not be through in time for him to attend the funeral.

This restriction on RATs is an unacceptable level of control freakery that must be relaxed before there is widespread community transmission of omicron.

“Quick and effective identification of people with COVID will be vital when omicron hits New Zealand and this means New Zealanders need ready access to rapid antigen tests in a wide variety of settings including pharmacies and supermarkets.

“Rapid antigen tests are still effectively banned in New Zealand and the government has shown a real reluctance to use them. As the government’s own expert Professor Murdoch noted, we have been too slow to adopt tools like saliva and rapid tests.

Banning rapid tests when elimination was the goal at least made some sense. Banning them under a suppression strategy and with omicron on our doorstep makes no sense.

“Widespread availability of rapid COVID tests must be part of the toolkit alongside nasal and saliva based PCR tests. Under omicron, testing will be more important than ever.”

“We mustn’t get into a situation like Australia, where there are reports of shortages of rapid tests in various places.

“It appears we dodged a bullet a few days ago with DJ Dimension but, like delta, omicron will be back. The Government must use this time to get ready – and make sure we have a good stock of rapid tests in New Zealand and it needs to liberalise the rules around their use.”

The government was too busy congratulating itself to learn from overseas experience with Delta.

It must learn from what’s happening in Australia with pressure on testing and problems with accessing RATs.

Failing to prepare for this will be preparing for failure – again.

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