Rise in requests for Rats follows fifth wave of virus

Pharmacists are reporting a run on Rat kits and anti-viral packs as the southern region experiences a "fifth wave" of Covid-19.

The spread of the virus has led to a media release from WellSouth, which reminded the Otago and Southland community about how to stay well, to support whānau and plan ahead for the festive season.

Clinical director Dr Carol Atmore said people who were older or who had other health problems were most vulnerable to getting very sick from Covid.

"Many of these people who catch Covid-19 are much more likely to become very unwell, or suffer from long Covid," Dr Atmore said.

"We have seen increasing numbers of deaths in the last three weeks as a consequence of this."

Pharmacist Leigh Ribeiro, of Roslyn Pharmacy, said since the Otago Daily Times reported about the "fifth wave" of Covid-19 on Saturday, it had vaccinated "dozens" of people.

"We’ve just ordered another 50 vials. Each vial contains six doses, so it’s been intense.

"Lots of people are coming in for boosters. I think a lot of people saw the article."

Ms Ribeiro said it had been the busiest period for the pharmacy in more than six months.

More than 350 rapid antigen test kits had already been distributed this month, well above the total for the previous two months, she said.

"As we head into the holiday season, we should be able to fulfil the demand."

People should consider wearing a mask in places which were vulnerable to Covid-19.

"It’s still a simple yet effective defence," she said.

Dr Atmore encouraged people to think about the timing of this wave with the impending festival season where families, friends and workmates would be getting together.

"Think about how you hold your end-of-year parties, so you don’t give your team Covid as a pre-Christmas present, and how to keep well and support loved ones during this time," she said.

People who had been longer than six months without a Covid-19 booster vaccination should consider getting one to help protect the community.

A spokeswoman for Carnival Splendor, due to arrive tomorrow, said the 3000-passenger cruise ship was not badly affected by Covid-19.

Southern medical officer of health Dr Michael Butchard said cruise companies were operating under international guidelines relevant for Australasia and the Pacific, as well as the WHO’s international health regulations.

Dr Butchard said if on arrival, or during the course of the vessel’s journey around New Zealand, cases of infectious disease were identified on board a cruise vessel, the master of the vessel was required to report this to the National Public Health Services through a situation report (Sitrep).

The master or other officer was required to provide daily Sitreps if Covid-19 was detected on a vessel, regardless of the number of cases, he said.

"We still have Covid-19 circulating in our communities and there is a higher proportion of positive cases in our communities than on the cruise ships due to berth in our region," Dr Butchard said.

"If people are well protected by being up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations, including boosters (if eligible), there is no special cause for alarm from cruise ship visitors as we already have Covid-19 circulating in our communities."