More Lakes District Hospital Staff To Be Tested For COVID-19
Thirty-eight more staff at Lakes District Hospital are being tested for COVID-19, following a second nurse testing positive for the disease.
The nurse was one of 36 staff who were tested yesterday, and one of 15 ‘close contacts’ of the nurse whose positive test result was confirmed yesterday. All close contacts are required to remain in self-isolation, while the 21 casual contacts who were tested yesterday are now able to return to work.
The additional tests mean all 74 staff who have worked at the facility over the past 14 days will be tested, as the Medical Officer of Health seeks to understand how the nurses became infected and rule out community transmission from within the workforce.
Any of these staff deemed to be close contacts of the second case are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, effective immediately.
During the testing process, the Hospital will continue to operate its emergency department, and its maternity unit, which has now been relocated to another building on the site.
Patients requiring hospital admission will be transferred to another facility in the district. Yesterday, the only two patients in Lakes Hospital were discharged home following the decision to undertake extensive cleaning of the hospital.
The second nurse only had very mild symptoms, and attended work for one shift while infectious. All close contacts, including four patients, are being followed up and asked to self-isolate.
Our thoughts remain with the staff members involved, and those in our care who have been affected by this situation.
We are continuing to support both nurses and their wider teams at this stressful time. Again, we thank everyone for their support of all our staff, and continue to ask that their privacy is respected as we work together to address the impact of COVID-19 in our community.
Since yesterday’s Daily Media Update there are 15 new confirmed Southern DHB COVID-19 cases. This is made up of 9 new reported cases on 30 March, and 6 new reported cases on 31 March.
The total number of Southern cases is now 98. This includes 97 confirmed cases and one probable case.
This means Southern DHB has the highest number of cases in the country.
There is also a new COVID-19 cluster related to a wedding in Bluff.
UPDATE: Concern about offers of alternative test kits
There have been media inquiries and reports that a Queenstown-based company is offering to supply the Southern DHB with rapid testing kits for COVID-19.
James Ussher, Associate Professor Department of Microbiology and Immunology University of Otago & Consultant Clinical Microbiologist for Southern Community Laboratories has expressed his concern.
Assoc Prof Ussher says there are many tests being touted at the moment as offering rapid diagnostic testing for COVID-19. Unfortunately these tests are not fit for purpose. They are based on the detection of antibody and/or antigen and are significantly less sensitive in the first week of illness compared to PCR tests. Furthermore, most of these tests have not been properly evaluated and their diagnostic accuracy is uncertain. The use of these tests risks undermining the public health effort to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus, as there is a very high risk of false negative tests in those with infection. Testing must be performed by a PCR test that has been properly evaluated.
The Ministry of Health has also issued the following statement:
Reliable and rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2 is a vital part of New Zealand’s pandemic response
The primary method for virus detection in New Zealand is a gold standard testing method called the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). As the World Health Organisation notes, this test is still the best way to track and trace virus.
Our laboratories are operating 24/7 to support this response by providing accurate and reliable test results.
The Ministry is aware of a growing number of purported "in home" tests for COVID-19 that are emerging.
The Ministry doesn't recommend their use as there is no way to ensure their accuracy, and they may give people a false sense of security. As yet no in home-test has been approved for use in New Zealand.
Advances in diagnostic testing are rapidly evolving - companies are developing tests and are pushing for adoption (and market share). Many of these tests are unproven.
Tests to directly detect viral particles (called antigen tests) are currently being validated prior to being deployed in the UK. However, such a test recently failed in Spain where, anecdotally, the test was only 30% accurate. While these tests are ‘in development’ they are not market ready (as of 29th March). Adopting a poor test would have a very detrimental outcome during the track & trace pandemic phase.
Anyone who has been tested is expected to be in strict self-isolation until advised of the result of their test – that means effectively quarantining themselves from other members of their family.