Two new Covid-19 cases, Ministry changes tune on masks

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: Getty Images
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand has two new cases of Covid-19 today in managed isolation and the Ministry of Health is now saying masks will be an important component if there is a new outbreak.

The first case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand on July 23 from the Philippines via Hong Kong. He has been in managed isolation at the Rydges in Rotorua and tested negative for Covid-19 around day 3 of his stay. He has now been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility after testing positive around day 12 of his stay.

The second case is a woman in her 40s who arrived in New Zealand on August 1 from the Philippines via Hong Kong. She has been in managed isolation at the Grand Millennium in Auckland, and tested positive around day 3 of her stay.

The two new cases take the total of active cases in managed isolation facilities in New Zealand to 24.

Yesterday laboratories processed 4,140 tests for Covid-19. There were 485 swabs taken in managed isolation and quarantine facilities yesterday.

The total number of tests processed to date is now 477,909.

"We would like to thank all New Zealanders who have come forward to be tested – this wider testing is important to ensure there is no undetected community transmission. "

Masks

The Ministry said it was actively considering its advice to the public on use of masks, as it looked at steps the public could take to be better prepared for a possible further outbreak of Covid-19.

The updated World Health Organization advice was that masks were effective in helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19 when worn by the public where there are cases of community transmission.

WHO also suggested that people should be prepared for the use of masks before the need to use them arises.

"We know that masks have been successfully used overseas to reduce transmission of Covid-19.

"Masks can be particularly useful when people are in close proximity to each other – including on public transport, in shops, and in other confined spaces.

"If there are further outbreaks of Covid-19, masks will be one important component of our strategy for containing the spread of the virus." 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield told RNZ this morning that the ministry was actively looking at scenarios where mass masking may be required.

"We're looking at situations where masks might be deployed and recommended for the general population," he said.

"Our thinking at the moment is that even at alert level 2 we would be encouraging people to use them in confined spaces, so public transport, shops and so on."

But that would be considered voluntary at level 2, he said, and his intuition is that it would be ramped up to mandatory at level 3.

"Because remember you're deploying all these things including the masks to try and avoid going into a lockdown again."

While there was no firm decisions on masks yet, he encouraged people to have some stocked at their homes, in the same way they have an earthquake kit in case of emergencies.

Work was also under way to check how much is available in the private sector and to ensure there was enough for everybody, he said.

Bloomfield's warning

Today's update comes as director general of health Dr Bloomfield issued a stern warning for Kiwis to remain ready for a fresh outbreak of the virus.

"We don't want to end up like Melbourne," he told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning, referring to the dire situation across the Tasman where hundreds of Covid-19 cases continue to be reported each day in the state of Victoria.

"That's why we've got all our planning and preparation going full steam ahead.

"We've got everything in place we think minimises the risk down to as low as possible, but there are still hundreds of people still working in the facilities and working at the border."

At the weekend, the Government relaunched its next phase of its Covid-19 campaign, telling the public to "be ready."

Today, Bloomfield reiterated the need for Kiwis to remain vigilant and to be prepared for the potential return of the disease in New Zealand.

"So far, we have been successful. But remember that is where the cases came from in Victoria which has led to this huge outbreak [there]," he said.

NZ Herald and ODT

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