The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Waitematā DHB Chief Executive Dr Dale Bramley give an update on the COVID-19 reponse.
Dr Bloomfield told media that for a fifth consecutive day, there are no additional confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand.
He said there have also been 2 probable cases and both of those people have now been discharged from hospital and are at home and under the care of their General Practice.
Dr Bloomfield talked about the World Health Organization’s decision to declare COVID-19 a pandemic. He said it reinforces the importance of the planning and preparation already informing New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.
He said New Zealand has been planning for some weeks as if this would be declared a pandemic. Nothing changes, and we are continuing to plan and respond with pace.
He reinforced the WHO’s stance that counties should continue to respond aggressively to this situation.
As part of that planning, DHBs are further developing their plans with primary care for dedicated community assessment centres if needed. In some regions, the response may also involve having nurses to go out to homes and practices to swab people. Those plans are still being finalised.
At this point, the mainstay of our community response is for people to ring Healthline or ring ahead to their General Practice if they are feeling unwell, and they'll be advised what to do.
Dr Bloomfield says the Ministry’s expert group met again today and provided further advice on countries of concern to inform changes to the Ministry’s case definition and also advice on expanding testing within primary care.
He told media the two areas of interest at the moment include Europe and USA.
Dr Bloomfield said our case numbers remain unchanged. New Zealand has five confirmed cases based on positive test results and two probable cases.
All 252 close contacts of the confirmed cases are being monitored daily by health staff.
The majority of the North Shore Hospital staff stood down and asked to self-isolate, as a result of an earlier hospitalisation of one of the probable cases, have now returned to work.
Other staff will progressively return. If they remain well, all staff will be back at work by Monday 16 March.
He said the mainstay of our advice while responding to COVID-19 – is for people not to put themselves or others at risk if they are unwell.
Daily testing is increasing and continuing. Lab testing capacity is currently around 550 tests a day and more ability to test will soon become available.
Our primary care clinics now all have Personal Protective Equipment and they know how to deal with people who come in with symptoms.
Dr Bloomfield said the important thing is to test people who are symptomatic and have been in close contact with cases.
He said there have been assertive measures early regarding COVID-19 which means, at this stage, we still have a small number of confirmed cases.
Dr Bloomfield said travel restrictions are under active consideration.
To be successful in stopping onward transmission, we need to get in touch with and get into isolation at least 80% of close contacts – we have been able to do that.
Dr Bloomfield said our National Health Coordination Centre was established in January and we have been early in regards to travel restrictions, testing and self-isolation.
View the media briefing on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service Facebook page.