Message from the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield

27 Jul 2020

All of these require us to continue to work closely with the wider sector and we will be doing so and keeping you updated on this work.

Updated COVID-19 Mâori Health Response Plan

I’m pleased to share the Ministry’s updated COVID-19 Mâori Health Response Plan. This builds on the progress made by the Initial COVID-19 Mâori Response Action Plan and provides an updated framework to protect, prevent, and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 within Mâori communities.

I’d like to acknowledge everyone who provided feedback on the initial plan since it was released in April. A great deal of this has been incorporated, and the update reflects the Government’s evolving approach to COVID-19. It continues to guide health and disability system action throughout the COVID-19 response.

I want to sincerely thank the people who have worked within our Mâori Health directorate for the significant work they have done so far to protect Mâori communities against COVID-19 – ngâ mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.  

I encourage you to use the updated plan in your work. If you have any issues and queries, please contact John Whaanga and his team at maorihealth@health.govt.nz.

COVID-19 Testing

The Ministry is continuing to provide guidance on COVID-19 testing to clarify who should be tested. Our goal is to lift the overall level of community testing, so we are encouraging more tests of symptomatic people to be done.

All people presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should be offered a test. This is an important part with our broader disease surveillance. The Higher Index of Suspicion (HIS) criteria are unchanged and identify those who are our highest priority for testing.

It’s also important to note that all tests should be free of charge to the patient, and that providers should work together to ensure access to testing facilities, including reasonable hours of operation and mobile services.

Testing for COVID-19 will remain one of our critical tools for protecting NZ from the virus and we’ll need to remain agile with our approach.

Disability Services

Thank you to those providers who have continued to care for and support disabled people, their whânau, aiga and carers during the COVID-19 response.

In particular, the Enabling Good Lives initiative has had exceptional feedback from people who felt really supported by them during lockdown.

During the COVID-19 response, disabled people and their whânau have been able to flexibly use their Carer Support and Individualised Funding to pay resident family members to be relief carers, use relief care even when the primary carer was doing other paid work, and buy disability supports such as art and craft supplies, books or DVDs and weighted blankets.

The Ministry is looking at how we can continue this flexibility.

Sponsored data initiative

Health providers around the country have given us clear feedback that the cost of mobile data can be a barrier to people accessing key health and wellbeing information or services.

To help address this, the Ministry has launched a Sponsored Data partnership with mobile network operators Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

Sponsored Data means New Zealanders won’t incur mobile data charges when they access essential COVID-19 information, health information and resources, including mental health; and eligible online health services.

In the first instance, 11 key health websites and two GP portals are free of data charges. The number of sponsored websites will increase over time so New Zealanders can access even more key health information and services without mobile data charges.

You can find out more about the initiative on our website here.

Additional funding for COVID-19 response

Last week, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins announced further funding of more than $300 million to support New Zealand’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

This funding is to keep up with the increasing supply and demand pressure for medicines and medical devices and PPE. It also adds to funding for technology to support contact tracing and a new immunisation solution, additional infrastructure to support the use of ventilators in hospitals, and provision for the current demand for telehealth services.

I have said many times that we cannot be complacent about being at Level 1 of the COVID-19 response - we are fortunate to be in this position and do still need to be vigilant and prepared for outbreaks in our community. Internationally, COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to climb, and we must do everything we can to continue protecting New Zealand.

My sincere thanks to all of you who are part of our country’s response – in particular, monitoring, caring for and testing returning Kiwis at the border.  The work you do every day is critical for the safety and wellbeing of everyone in New Zealand.

Ngâ mihi nui
Dr Ashley Bloomfield
Director-General of Health