Francesca Rudkin: NZ needs to be fierce at the border to tackle Covid

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Jun 2020, 9:59AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Francesca Rudkin: NZ needs to be fierce at the border to tackle Covid

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Jun 2020, 9:59AM

So it was an interesting week in our house; I use interesting as a euphemism.

My daughter woke up at the beginning of the week with what I diagnosed as a garden-variety cold - perhaps the 50th of her life, you know, the kind of thing kids seem to have for half of winter.

However, in this Covid 19 world, a cold isn’t just a cold anymore,is it?

As a member of this team of 5 million, I did the right thing and rang Healthline, where a lovely man there said she should be tested for Covid 19, and stay isolated in the family home until my daughter was symptom-free for 48 hours.

The school guidelines said the same – cold and flu like symptoms require a Covid 19 test.

My 11-year-old daughter took the test last Sunday at the St Lukes drive-through testing station in Auckland. It was busy but an organised affair. The test is uncomfortable for 10 seconds – brings a tear to the eye – and then is largely forgotten a few minutes later.

We were told that due to the emergence of Covid 19 cases in people returning to New Zealand, the testing stations had become much busier and the two-day wait to get a result was now five days.

I never received the call or text I was told would come – instead I rang my GP’s clinic daily to finally get the result on Friday. It was negative of course. Monday she’s back to school!

Couple of things struck me.

Kids get sick, and are going to get sick all winter – it’s that time of year. The hand sanitiser and coughing into elbows didn’t stop 5 kids from being away from my daughter’s class on Monday.

If you have a Covid test and can’t return to school or work until the results come back, the results need to come back fast.

Kids getting sick is normally inconvenient, during Covid it creates a full family logistics melt-down - the call not to return to work or school until you are symptom-free, means people’s lives and jobs are put on hold again – for five days.

On Thursday the Ministry of Health updated their guidance for testing - though, according to one GP I spoke to, they updated it four times in one day. Another GP told me they learnt about the changes through the media. Anyway, now you only need to take a test if you have cold or flu symptoms and are high risk, or connected to travel or to the border.

I am not surprised they changed the testing regulations. It only took a few days of everyone, like me, obeying the rules for the decision to lighten the load.

I think two things are true – in winter a lot of people are a bit ill a lot of the time and there’s little we can do about it, and that Covid 19 will come to NZ through the border so that’s where the resource needs to be prioritised.

New Zealanders have every right to come home, and we shouldn’t be afraid some of them will return with Covid 19. It was always going to happen – we should never have gotten so smug about 24 days of no new cases.

The experts tell us that 14 days of quarantine with proper social distancing should do the trick, but we can’t rely on that. We need to be fierce at the border – making sure our managed isolation or quarantine, testing and contract tracing systems are as robust as they can be, and if some of those returning don’t like it, they shouldn’t come home.

Otherwise, we will find ourselves in constant limbo, wondering what an earth to do with that snivel.

We owe it to those whose livelihoods depend on us progressively opening the border to get this right.