There are no additional confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand again today.
To date, New Zealand has five positive test results and two probable cases.
The confirmed cases so far fit a pattern of spread primarily within families. This is a pattern identified by the World Health Organization mission which identified that around 80% of all human to human transmission occurred in families.
Of the positive cases in New Zealand, one patient is in Auckland Hospital and continues to improve. Planning is underway for their discharge. Of the other cases, none require hospital level care.
Today, the Ministry can provide updates on New Zealanders involved in the Grand Princess cruise ship situation.
On Friday, we were notified about eight New Zealanders who travelled previously on the Grand Princess, currently in quarantine off California.
Of the eight people on that previous cruise, 5 are well and have passed the 14-day period of concern.
Of the remaining three passengers on the Grand Princess 11 – 21 February, one woman in her 70s had been in hospital for a respiratory illness and was discharged. She is now in North Shore hospital for an unrelated-condition. As we have previously said, this woman is considered a probable case (the other probable case is the father of case 3 who had recently travelled back to New Zealand from Iran).
We take the same precautionary actions for a probable case as we do for a positive case.
A number of North Shore hospital staff involved in the woman's treatment during her earlier admission to hospital and regarded as close contacts have been stood down as a precaution for the balance of the 14 days since they were in contact.
Waitemata DHB has reported to us today that the total number of staff stood down is 54. All would need to be well before they return to work.
The first staff members who were possibly exposed will be clear of the 14 day stand down period by Wednesday 11 March. They and other staff will be progressively returning to work.
If they remain well, all staff will be back at work by Monday 16 March.
Waitemata DHB has assured us there has been no impact on clinical care from these stand downs, and the DHB continues to provide services as usual.
The other two passengers have mild symptoms, have been tested and are in self isolation. 1 test result is negative, with the other pending.
In further updates today, there are a number of other cruise ship movements of interest involving New Zealanders:
- 4 New Zealanders are currently on the Grand Princess. We are not aware of any health concerns around these people.
- We are aware of some New Zealanders on board the MSC Opera in Greece. The number is still to be verified. We are not aware of any of these people being unwell.
- 1 New Zealander is on the quarantined Asara on a Nile River cruise. We are not aware of any health concerns around this individual.
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.
We have talked with both the Medical Council and Nursing Council to discuss their plans to accelerate the recertification process for former health professionals if needed to respond to pressure on health services in a pandemic.
The Medical Council already has in place a Disaster and Pandemic special purpose scope of practice for this purpose. They’ll be meeting this week to review their approach.
The Nursing Council has advanced planning on an agreed process to return nurses currently not practicing to the workforce quickly for work in specific areas such as border screening, pandemic vaccination and work in community based pandemic assessment centres. Once this process is activated, nurses' practising certificates (where straightforward) should be able to be issued the same day.
The Pharmacy Council is reviewing its non-practicing register. They’ll ascertain and put in place plans to contact practitioners who have recently voluntarily exited the register to determine if they can return to assist if required.
In an update on testing, the Ministry has today confirmed:
- 5 positive results
- 2 probable cases
- 269 negative results
- 17 cases classed under investigation.
The Ministry has also been working with the sector on testing capacity.
In Auckland, Labplus is this week scheduled to increase capacity from 60 tests per day to as many as 750, were that to be needed.
021 500 947