Message from the Deputy Chief Executive of COVID-19 Health System Response

17 Aug 2020

Kia ora Koutou and Talofa Lava
As the Director General of Health has been saying for several weeks, it was inevitable that New Zealand would get another case of community transmission. Within the Ministry we have been working on the basis that it could be at any time – and that time has arrived. Cabinet has considered whether we need to change alert levels today and decided to maintain the current settings for a further 12 days. We continue to provide public health advice to help inform the Government’s decision, as we have previously.



Testing and self-isolation
I wish to acknowledge the continued, tremendous efforts of our colleagues across the health sector, as we face a renewed response to COVID-19 in our communities. The mahi that has happened to stand up more testing sites enabled over 30,000 COVID swabs to be taken across New Zealand in the last 48 hours.
Guidance about who needs to self-isolate when waiting for a test result has been updated and is available from the Ministry website. Please use this guidance when you advise your patients about steps they should take following a test. 
We encourage anyone in Auckland with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested, whether or not they meet the Higher Index of Suspicion. We advise those who live outside of Auckland and have symptoms to call their doctor or Healthline to find out if they need to get a test for COVID-19 and if offered a test, to take it. If you do not have symptoms, you do not need a test, UNLESS you’ve been advised by health officials, for example if you’re a close contact a confirmed case, or if you work at the border. We are asking people not to go to a community testing station if they do not have symptoms, unless directed to by a health official.



Contact tracing
We are very grateful to all PHUs who are using the National Contact Tracing Solution.
This has enabled us to quickly identify and contact close and casual contacts of confirmed cases. As the Auckland cluster grows the value of this system is being proven. I’m also pleased to report we are meeting a key KPI of the Verrall Review, with 80% of close contacts called and isolated within 48 hours of notification of a case to a PHU.



Compulsory isolation of confirmed cases
The Director-General of Health has issued a statutory direction on the compulsory isolation of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Confirmed cases are requested to complete their period of isolation in managed quarantine, to provide the important 'wrap around' social and other support services that individuals and whanau may need.  Further guidance will be provided on this as we acknowledge locations outside of Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch may not be able to provide this facility.



Aged Residential Care
No doubt you will be aware through media reports that one of the people who has tested positive visited a rest home in the Waikato. As a precautionary measure all aged residential care facilities across the country are closed to visitors and staff are limited to working at a single site until at least midnight tonight.



Ministry Response Team
Within the Ministry of Health we have established an incident management response. This includes activating established roles and responsibilities across a number of disciplines and areas of expertise, including Māori and Pacifica, testing, intelligence, planning, operations, contact tracing, PHU liaison, primary care, DHBs, workforce, logistics, sector relationships and emergency management services. This is not an exhaustive list but I do want to give you an idea of the scale and scope of what we are doing inside the Ministry.