Southern DHB bracing for increase in cases

The southern health system is coping well with the ravages of Covid-19, but ‘‘we are not yet through the eye of the storm,’’ Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming says.

Yesterday, eight confirmed or probable Covid-19 cases were identified in the South, bringing the regional total to 39.

Nationally, 85 new cases of the pandemic disease had been recorded by 9am yesterday, bringing New Zealand’s total cases to 368.

Health officials have constantly warned cases will continue to increase for at least 10 days.

While 37 of those people have now recovered, yesterday a Nelson man became the first New Zealand patient with Covid-19 to be admitted to intensive care.

Mr Fleming said health care workers across the southern region were already working long hours dealing with Covid-19 cases, and all were aware more cases were expected.

‘‘One of the things that we know from other countries is that the number of cases will ramp up, so we are glad the Government has taken the actions that it has done.

‘‘We are planning for all eventualities so we will be as prepared as we can be.’’

Staff at Lakes District Hospital have already dealt with a Covid-19 case — a Spanish tourist who has been discharged — but few other suspected Covid-19 cases had presented to hospital emergency departments, Mr Fleming said.

Staff were already working to rosters designed to keep them fresh and allow adequate time off, and that would continue as long as possible, Mr Fleming said.

‘‘That has been an enormous challenge for a lot of people, planning to meet any or all eventualities, and they have burnt the midnight oil.

‘‘An issue I worry about is that when you are dealing with a one-off event like a fire or a flood that will last for a finite period of time, whereas this will last for weeks and possibly for months ahead and that may prove quite difficult.’’

The University of Otago had its first Covid-19 scare yesterday, after staff and students were told a person who later tested positive to the disease had been on campus.

The person, who was not a university student, was in the Robertson Library on March 16 between 11am and noon.

Apart from the university scare, the biggest concern for southern health officials remained the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown, now recognised as the wellspring of a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

Twenty confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand have been linked to the conference, held from March 9-13.

About 400 people from 18 countries attended the conference; one, an Australian, tested positive to Covid-19 after he returned home.

‘‘Since then, public health units, along with Healthline and the Ministry of Health’s newly established contact tracing unit, have been working to contact trace and follow up on cases and contacts,’’ a joint statement said.

‘‘Figures through to today have identified 840 close contacts, 583 of whom have been tracked.’’

The Government yesterday announced revisions to its wage subsidy scheme aimed at making income support available to more people.

‘‘Even if businesses are required to operate with no activity, the subsidy allows them to keep their workers on the books, particularly during alert Level 4,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

The Government also moved to allay concerns from some health professionals that not enough personal protection equipment was available to them. A fortnight’s supply of masks was released from national reserves and sent to DHBs, with a promise of more to come.

Add a Comment

Local journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Otago Daily Times reporters and photographers continue to bring you the stories that matter. For more than 158 years our journalists have provided readers with local news you can trust. This is more important now than ever.

As advertising drops off during the pandemic, support from our readers is crucial. You can help us continue to bring you news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter