Message from the Director General of Health - Ashley Bloomfield - 19th June 2020

19 Jun 2020

Kia ora koutou

We have three active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. While we hoped we wouldn’t see any more new cases, we have planned for it, as COVID-19 is a serious pandemic continuing to affect many countries.

As you know, the two people who tested positive earlier this week had been released from managed isolation to visit a dying parent in Wellington. Their release was on the basis of a strict set of conditions to ensure the public remains safe. We have undertaken wide testing around these two cases as a precaution and so far all results are negative.

Since Tuesday, we have ensured:

  •        no one leaves a managed isolation facility without having had a negative COVID-19 test including on compassionate grounds
  •        all people in isolation are tested on around days 3 and 12.

I will be working closely with Air Commodore Darren Webb to make sure New Zealand’s quarantine, managed isolation and border processes are robust and keeping New Zealanders safe.

The National Contact Tracing Centre is following up all possible contacts of these positive COVID-19 cases. Of the over 400 individuals who may have had an interaction with these two cases at the managed isolation hotel including staff and passengers on the flights, 90% have been contacted.

Each possible contact will be identified, tested, and required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Exemptions from Managed Isolation

All exemptions from managed isolation on compassionate grounds are suspended for the time being. We do understand that being required to stay in managed isolation in these circumstances is extremely difficult for people and we are doing our best to provide them with the support they need.

Exemptions for medical treatment and medical evacuation will continue to be considered on a case by case basis. The Ministry will notify the PHU/DHB where the exempt person is travelling.

Personal Protective Equipment

Today we advised DHBs that three quarters of the 4.9 million PPE masks put on hold earlier this month are now cleared and able to be used.

On 12 June, we requested that the 4.9 million be put on hold. The masks were withdrawn as a precautionary move to allow further quality assurance from suppliers and manufacturers to take place. Concerns related to inconsistencies in labelling and certification.

Now we have cleared three types of personal protective equipment (PPE) masks as meeting appropriate standards which means 3.7 million masks can now be put back into circulation.

Compliance checks continue for the remaining 1.2 million masks on hold while the Ministry works with the suppliers on verification. These masks remain on hold because the required checks have not yet been completed. It does not necessarily mean these items are non-compliant.

The Ministry continues to carefully monitor all items of PPE coming into the National Supply Chain to ensure they are compliant and has implemented new processes to quality assure PPE before it is placed into circulation.

Health and Disability System Review

The Health and Disability System Review final report was released by the Government earlier this week.

The Health and Disability System Review looked at the overall function of the health and disability system and whether the system is balanced towards wellness, access, equity, and sustainability.

The Government is responsible for the Review and for making decisions about the recommendations and how these might be implemented. The Ministry of Health’s role is to continue to provide advice and support to the Government to inform its decision-making

Cannabis Legalisation and Control and the End of Life Choice referendums

At this year’s General Election in September, New Zealanders will have the opportunity to vote on two referendums – the Cannabis Legalisation and Control referendum and the End of Life Choice referendum.

Those of us who are public servants – such as Ministry of Health and DHB staff and contractors – have an obligation while at work to be politically neutral at all times. This includes making sure we don’t comment publicly on either of the referendum questions, regardless of our personal views.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for informing the public about the referendums and has established a website at www.referendums.govt.nz. Any questions you may receive about the referendums can be referred to the website, which includes contact details for further information.

Please note that the Cannabis Legalisation and Control referendum relates to recreational cannabis and is entirely separate from the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme that has been administered by the Ministry of Health since 1 April 2020. No changes to the scheme are included within the proposed Bill that will be voted on in the referendum.

Ngâ mihi nui
Dr Ashley Bloomfield
Director-General of Health ****************************************************************************