Coronavirus: NZ in "keep it out, stamp it out, slow it down" phase

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Mar 2020, 4:33PM
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield updates the media on the Covid-19 outbreak. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield updates the media on the Covid-19 outbreak. File photo / Mark Mitchell

Coronavirus: NZ in "keep it out, stamp it out, slow it down" phase

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Mar 2020, 4:33PM

Health officials say nothing has changed in terms of our response to coronavirus despite it being declared a pandemic earlier today.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealand was still in the "keep it out, stamp it out, slow it down" phase.

Authorities are also looking very closely at other countries that had managed to control the outbreak - such as Taiwan and Singapore - to see what they're doing right.

"It is not an inevitability that we get an out-of-control pandemic here," he said.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon Bloomfield said there are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, for the 5th day in a row.

Yesterday around 100 tests were carried out, and labs were equipped to do 500 tests a day if needed. However, as of today there are no probable cases.

Only one patient has required hospital-level care so far, but they have since been discharged. All five are now in isolation at home.

Bloomfield said all close contacts of those cases remain in self isolation and are being followed up daily by health staff.

He said close contacts of the five cases had been "very compliant" in self-isolating.

There was a high degree of trust for those people who were self-isolating coming from countries facing outbreaks, but the ministry was looking at other ways to enforce those self-isolation requirements if necessary, including legal options.

The Ministry of Education is also planning for the possibility of shutting down schools.

Bloomfield reiterated yesterday's advice that anyone who was unwell should not go out and put others at risk. On Wednesday he said that included even a runny nose.

He said this morning's pandemic announcement formalises the approach that is already being taken.

"We have been acting and planning as if this would be a pandemic for some weeks and now and we continue to plan and respond with pace."

He said that was that was in line with the World Health Organisation's advice.

Bloomfield yesterday asked anyone who felt unwell - even with just a runny nose - to stay home.

That was particularly important given there were concerts and large gatherings coming up including Poly fest and the Christchurch mosque shootings memorial, he said.

He also reiterated advice about washing hands for twenty seconds, sneezing into your arm and not touching your face to help avoid the virus' spread.

By Wednesday there were more than 9,000 people or households which had started or completed the self-isolation process.

Among them were 54 North Shore Hospital staff who had been exposed to one of the patients considered a "probable" case of Covid-19.

They were returning to work progressively from Wednesday and would all be back at work by next Monday, assuming they remained well.

"It's good the key public health measures of strict border controls, self-isolation for people who have come from overseas hot-spots or been in contact with local cases have had the desired impact so far.

"Now is the time to be even more vigilant," Bloomfield said.

Dr Dale Bramley, lead CEO for the northern region DHBs, said there were several arms to their response. Auckland's DHBs have this week increased their presence at New Zealand's borders.

There have been 252 close contacts actively followed up to date.

Hospitals are also being very careful about responding to people who turn up in the ED with symptoms - staff are using protective gear and patients are being isolated.

Bramley said a response team from all three DHBs, with some assistance from Northland, had been pulled together. Some of the duties they were doing have been picked up by other staff.

The DHBs were currently "managing fine" in terms of staffing levels but were very aware that there would be more pressure on hospitals during the peak winter period.

More than 118,000 people have been infected worldwide and almost 4300 have died, according to the WHO.