10 more cases in southern region

As confidence grows the country’s Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown is working, the South continues to stand out for the wrong reasons.

Yesterday, 10 new southern cases were revealed in Invercargill (5), Dunedin (4), and Central Otago (1) — the most (18.5%) of all 54 new New Zealand cases.

So-called "clusters" contributed more than half of new cases yesterday — and a full 50% of new cluster cases (14 of 28) come from the two southern clusters at the Bluff wedding (11) and Queenstown’s World Hereford Conference (3).

The Bluff wedding cluster now accounts for 73 cases, second-most in the country after Auckland’s Marist College cluster (77), which added five cases yesterday.

The Queenstown conference is the fourth-most significant cluster at 35 cases.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield yesterday confirmed the South was among the top three regions where the source of transmission was under investigation (16% of cases nationally) which could result in more cases here being determined to be a result of community transmission.

At present 16% of all New Zealand Covid-19 cases are in the South — New Zealand’s total climbed to 1160; the South now stands at 187.

Health Minister David Clark told Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee current advice was against widespread testing.

He said particular places of outbreak though could be tested more broadly as a "surveillance" measure of the spread of the disease "perhaps around our medical workforce, or particular places of outbreak".

"And I am aware that the ministry are particularly looking at how we best do surveillance, how we look at the patterns of spread across the country and get a better understanding of it in a situation where people are at home, predominantly," he said.

"The encouraging thing that we are seeing is that as more testing is being done the number of cases are not going up commensurately. So, the number of cases per test being done is dropping at this stage — and that is an encouraging sign."

Dr Bloomfield said he was "increasingly confident" the lockdown was working but as the country’s contact-tracing improved, and moved on to an electronic platform to link with laboratory testing data, this week the Ministry of Health would be able to show the pattern of testing by region. Meanwhile, in a statement last night, the Southern District Health Board said 418 elective operations had been postponed as southern hospitals prepared for Covid-19 cases.

Dunedin Hospital had at present 24 bed spaces dedicated as a Covid-19 ward and by using clinical rooms that number could be increased to 28.

Southland Hospital had 12 beds reserved for Covid-19 patients.

Additional capacity had also been created at Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown.

"Beyond this, we have further wards that we would make available as we step up the response across the southern health system," the statement said.

Dunedin’s intensive care unit had contingency plans to allow up to 30 beds to be used for Covid-19 cases; Southland had a further six coronary care unit beds.

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