South 'not ready for second wave'

Sir David Skegg. Photo: ODT files
Sir David Skegg. Photo: ODT files
The South may not be ready to contain a second wave of Covid-19, if an outbreak of the disease was to take hold.

Contact-tracing systems still require work and epidemiologists say the population needs to be prepared for mass mask-wearing.

"We need a greater sense of urgency in getting prepared, because so many countries that were enjoying success in controlling Covid-19 are now struggling with relapses," University of Otago epidemiologist emeritus professor Sir David Skegg said.

"No-one wants us to have to return to a lockdown for several weeks."

The Southern District Health Board is not satisfied it can trace contacts quickly enough.

"We are continuing to build up our capacity to meet the contact-tracing targets as required by the Ministry of Health," SDHB medical officer of health Susan Jack said.

"We are fairly close to meeting the targets but we are taking a little more time to ensure we have a robust scaling up which is sustainable for our staff."

The SDHB is running pop-up Covid-19 testing clinics to lift testing rates to an effective level.

Officials were delighted with the response to pop-up testing in Queenstown this week when they had aimed for 300 tests but more than 1000 people turned up.

About a third of the tests had been processed by yesterday afternoon and came back negative for the Covid-19 virus.

A pop-up clinic will be run in Milford today.

"Covid-19 testing rates have been lower than we would like across the Southern district, outside of pop-up testing," Dr Jack said.

"We would still aim for around 400 tests per day for the region to have reasonable surveillance and assurance we do not have Covid-19 circulating undetected in our district."

She encouraged anyone who might have Covid-19 symptoms to make an appointment with their GP and be swabbed. Patients are not charged for this.

Dr Jack reminded people of how they could help contact-tracing efforts.

"We would encourage all businesses to use the Ministry of Health QR codes that are readily visible to customers to use."

University of Otago Wellington campus epidemiologist Michael Baker said there was not yet a culture of wearing masks in New Zealand but preparing the population to take that measure, if necessary, could make a decisive difference.

"That may make a difference in having to go into lockdown or not."

He suggested the region could run a pandemic exercise, where people would wear masks for a day while indoors.

Sir David said community spread of Covid-19 could depend on the effectiveness of the public health response and the Australian state of Victoria showed how easily things could go wrong.

"This virus spreads at an alarming rate," he said.

"In Victoria, the capacity for testing and contact-tracing got completely overwhelmed, so that a rigorous lockdown became the only feasible option.

"Here in New Zealand, we are enjoying a life of relative normality, but it is vital that we don’t become complacent.

"We should be using this lull in the battle to prepare for the next challenge."

The testing clinic at the Milford Sound Fire Station will start at 8am. Appointments are not required.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

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'Culture' of mask wearing could be compulsory, and people can download the contact tracer app. It's about contagion, not ambivalence.

The virus had a barely perceptible impact. The biggest impact came from top-down globalist control freaks who destroyed the economy.

And I bet you're an anti-vaxer as well. The impact has been "barely perceptible" because of the measures that have had a negative impact on the economy.

If the policy of globalist control freaks has been one of public health over economic health in the short term, then well done. Economies recover eventually, the dead don't.

NZ is in a relatively good place in spite of attitudes like yours.

"The virus had a barely perceptible impact." - Yeah, because of the courageous and prompt actions of the Ardern government. Just look to the USA, or the UK, to see where NZ could be now. Or look to Australia where we are enjoying the fruits of our less strict lockdown.
"top-down globalist control freaks" - This is right wing lunatic speech, (Sorry for the tautology).
"destroyed the economy" This is, at best, a gross exaggeration. The UK is looking at their biggest economic downturn since the Great Frost in 1709, and they are still in the middle if their virus disaster. The USA is going into debt at a mind-boggling rate, and they haven't even begun trying to deal with the virus yet. If you want an example of how to destroy an economy, look no further.
And here in Australia where Scotty from Marketing was boasting about how he had done as well as Jacinda, without as tough a lockdown, the Australian economy is in much bigger trouble than the NZ economy. We are just at the start of lockdown 2 and I don't see anyone talking about how great the economy is going to look.
Just look around - because if you're not happy with life in NZ, there are plenty of other options for you to try.

Scaremongering. Using their logic, then we should all lock down now because the 'flu, measles, meningitis are all out there coming for you... really?

With respect OtagoIdeas, we have well proven vaccinations for those illness's and diseases.
Currently, up to 6 different strains of Covid have been identified, all with varying severity, rate of transmission and ongoing health implications.
Lockdown was put in place to prevent widespread infections and deaths. It is also recognised that Covid19 has the ability to mutate. This is not a common flu. And just the icing on the cake, some of the Covid strains can damage the organs in all age groups permanantly. Pathologists and epidemiologists have observed the effects. We have no choice but to trust our health professionals, do our bit to prevent transmission and be patient. Would it just not make good sense to avoid the community transmissions and the overwhelming of our hospitals? We can see what has happened in so many countries around the world. We here are not 'special', it can happen to us too. I doubt any of us what that for our team of 5 million.
Until vaccination/s have been found with success, surely the best course of action is to protect and maintain our current 'Utopia'.

I'm glad they don't use your logic. About time you changed your name to Lackofideas isn't it?

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