Too complicated?: Govt to review Covid advice

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins (left) with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield...
Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins (left) with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: Getty Images
The Government is reviewing whether its communications during the latest Auckland Covid-19 cluster were too complicated - including the advice for "close contacts" and "casual-plus contacts".

The review comes as Auckland and the rest of New Zealand have extra reason to celebrate the lowering of alert levels today - there are no new community cases.

Auckland was moved to an alert level 3 lockdown on February 28 and the rest of the country to alert level 2 for a week, after two new Covid-19 community cases were announced on February 27. From 6am today, the city moved to alert level 2 and the rest of the country to level 1.

Today marks the sixth day in a row that there have been no community cases, although Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there are likely to be more managed isolation cases.

"It would appear to be contained at the moment - I never want to speak too soon. I've learned from experience never to say it's all over before it is actually all over but at this point it's looking pretty good," Hipkins told Newstalk ZB's Francesca Rudkin this morning.

Hipkins revealed the Government was reviewing whether some of the public advice was too complicated, following claims from some people they had received mixed messages about whether they should be self-isolating.

In one case, a woman went to work at KFC, saying she had been told she did not have to isolate - and later tested positive for Covid. The woman's actions raised the ire of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"It is a constant learning exercise and we will now have the opportunity to sort of do a bit of a debrief and say okay what did we do well [and] if we had to do this again what would we do differently?" Hipkins told Newstalk ZB.

"We do that after every community outbreak that we deal with and every incident that we deal with. Every time we we do things a little bit differently and we get a little bit better.

"This time we did rely more heavily on our contact-tracing system rather than lockdown so we had a very short, sharp lockdown, and then put the emphasis back on our contact tracing system.

"It was clear that not all of the information that our contact tracers needed...they didn't get it all. And that created an added complexity."

Rudkin asked the Minister if people had received clear advice and communication.

"One of the things we did [in] this current community outbreak is we had additional kind of layers - so we've had the casual plus and the close contact plus categories," Hipkins replied.

"So one of the things that we will go back and look at now is did that work? Was that too complicated for people? Would we do that again if we were in the position again? We will go back and have a look at that."

Meanwhile, Aucklanders have burst their bubbles this morning with coffee catch-ups, brunches and trips out of the city after a week cooped up under tough Covid-19 restrictions.

And life is returning to normal across the rest of the nation as level-2 restrictions give way to the freedom of level 1 life.

The nation's biggest city exited its alert level-3 Covid lockdown at 6am and moves into an alert level 2 stance that allows diners and shoppers back into stores and friends and groups to meet those they don't live with.

Auckland's week-long level 3 shutdown was brought on by Covid-exposed contacts breaking the rules and not isolating properly.

Comments

It is unnecessarily complicated and causes confusion in some people, especially the young ones, who's attention is not on lockdowns and Covid 19. Naturally their conduct is governed by different interests. They really need absolutely clear instructions in unprecedented situations.

I was unpleasantly surprised by a statement that health authorities sent 15 SMS and a few letters to the KFC worker's younger sister and not the their parents! Are these people for real? Shame on the "genius" bureaucrat who made that silly and unprofessional decision.

Definitely time for some clarity, especially on the categories of contacts.
The alert levels appear to be well understood and those breaching them are doing so knowingly and criminally and should be treated accordingly. However there is clearly confusion about the different levels of contact and the rules that apply to each. One thing seems clear to me, if an individual decides for whatever reason to have a test they should self isolate until they get the result.

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