COVID-19 media update, 16 March

News article

16 March 2020

The Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield updated the media at 1:30pm Monday 16 March on the health response to COVID-19.

View video of the media briefing

Update summary

  • The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are currently cruise ships in New Zealand waters that arrived before the restrictions came into force.
  • Some have been in NZ waters more than a week. All ships are cleared by health authorities on arrival and there is a high degree of scrutiny of declarations made by either the master of by the ship’s doctor. All ships have health staff on board.
  • Several thousand passengers have arrived on flights into New Zealand since the new self-isolation rules came into force at 1am today. In Auckland, about 2500 people would arrive from overseas on a Monday morning but today that had reduced to about 1000.
  • Dr Bloomfield thanks the thousands of people who have responded so positively to the self-isolation process. He says this is a high trust arrangement and he has great confidence that the vast majority of people will do their best for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Self-isolation requires us to act collectively.
  • Self-isolation is one of the most effective way of keeping individuals, families and our communities safe and healthy and stopping the spread of COVID-19. If we look to the countries and jurisdictions that have stopped widespread outbreaks and infections this has been fundamental to their success.
  • People coming into New Zealand are now required to fill out health cards, there is telephone follow-up and we are in the process of establishing spot checks to ensure people are self-isolating as required. The Medical Officers of Health can require people to be in self-isolation if there is a public health risk and can call on the Police to assist in enforcing that. Fines are also being considered for people who do not comply.
  • Every situation is different but self-isolation means staying at home if you’re sick or if you have been in contact with the virus, or if you are a close contact of someone who has the virus.
  • For people coming in from overseas who are not symptomatic but are self-isolating, this means taking common sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible. You can go outside but avoid face to face contact closer than 2 metres, for more than 15 minutes. You can still enjoy biking or walking or running alone.  You should avoid having visitors to your home but it’s okay to have friends, family or delivery drivers drop off food and supplies.
  • People who are self-isolating cannot use public transport, taxis, Ubers or similar during the 14-day period. Public transport (including internal flights) can only be used after arrival in New Zealand to return to your home or wherever you intend to self-isolate. If people are unwell or have symptoms, they should alert health authorities and stay at home.
  • While self-isolating, minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as bathroom, kitchens and sitting rooms. Don’t share beds, linen or food and clean regularly.
  • Healthline faces huge pressure from calls – more than 4500 calls yesterday, which is more than four times the number received on the same day last year.
  • People who want information on COVID-19 but do not need clinical advice should first access the Ministry of Health website.
  • Do not call Healthline for travel advice or advice on attending events. There is a dedicated Government helpline for this advice 0800 779 997.

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