COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) update, 9 March

Includes figures on contact tracing.

Media release

09 March 2020

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield gave an update on the response to COVID-19, at 1pm.

Summary

Dr Bloomfield told media there are no additional confirmed or probable cases in New Zealand.

  • To date there have been 5 positive tests and more than 260 negative tests.
  • The confirmed cases fit with the World Health Organization’s assessment of a pattern showing family transmission.
  • Of the positive cases, one person is in Auckland Hospital and continues to improve and is getting ready to be discharged. 
  • None of the others are in hospital.
  • 54 North Shore Hospital staff are currently in self-isolation. These people are deemed close contacts of the 70 year old woman who is a probable case of COVID-19. 
  • The first of those staff members treated the person early on so will be coming to the end of their 14 day period. They will be going back to work on Wednesday 11 March. All staff will be back at work by next Monday. There’s no affect on clinical care.
  • There are four New Zealanders still onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship but we have no health concerns about them.
  • There are 13 onboard the MSC Opera off the coast of Greece and one New Zealander onboard the Asara up the river Nile. We don’t have health concerns about these New Zealanders either.

Dr Bloomfield says the capacity to test for COVID-19 goes up this week with the new lab beginning operations in Dunedin and capacity in Auckland increasing from 60 tests a day to 750.

Dr Bloomfield said we are working with primary care to increase testing continues and we don’t miss cases.

The Ministry of Health is working hard with the broader sector to continue a strong response to the ‘stamp out’ phase of our pandemic planning tailored to COVID-19. 

We’re continuing to progress making it easier for health professionals who have retired or are no longer practicing to return to work if needed in a pandemic.  

The RNZCGP estimates around 200 former GPs could return and our own figures show 136 GPs who have stopped practising in the past year.
He told media that this Friday’s planned industrial action by APEX union members won’t affect lab testing for COVID-19 and he said he was disappointed APEX was using COVID-19 as leverage for an industrial dispute that everyone wants to resolve. 

Dr Bloomfield said he’s asked the Technical Advisory Group to look at whether more countries should be added to category B of the case definition.

Contact tracing update

To date (9 March), of the close contacts of the five confirmed cases and two probable cases.

  • 146 have been traced and contacted and given advice on self isolation. 
  • 762 casual contacts have been contacted. These people don't need to be in self-isolation but do need to be alert to the symptoms of COVID-19 and get in touch with Healthline or phone their GP if they have any concerns. 
  • 35 casual and close contacts have been identified in other parts of New Zealand and are being monitored and provided advice and guidance by the appropriate local Public Health Unit. 

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