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SDHB COVID-19 Update 4/4: 20 New Cases in Southern

The Ministry of Health announced 20 new COVID-19 cases in the Southern region today, bringing the region’s total to 151 as of 8am this morning. Confirmed and probable cases are combined for this and future totals, to match Ministry case reporting. For a breakdown by Territorial Authority please visit the Southern Health website

COVID-19 response in Queenstown-Lakes

The growing number of cases in the Southern region has created some media interest and community concern, particularly in the Queenstown-Lakes region where 59 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

Numbers in Queenstown are not surprising

Queenstown is a magnet for international travellers and it is no surprise that it’s among the first places to see significant numbers. Tourism and the World Hereford Conference were among the first sources of COVID-19 in Queenstown and led to cases in the general population.

The increase in numbers observed over the past two weeks is a predictable result of these initial sources of infection. Prior to lockdown commencing, transmission was able to happen naturally and in most cases, before sick people had symptoms. The effect of the lockdown will not be seen for at least another week or two because of the two-week incubation period for COVID-19 and the fact that infected people may still pass the virus on to those in their isolation ‘bubble’.

We were prepared

The Southern DHB started preparing for the first cases weeks before they happened and were ready for the increase that is now happening. New teams of contact tracers were created and trained and hospitals and GPs enacted the first stages of their pandemic plans and processes. Our public health teams continue to work with confirmed cases, identify close and casual contacts and make sure anyone who is in self-isolation is supported. Contact tracing happens quickly and precisely and is a highly effective way of stopping COVID-19 in its tracks.

Southern DHB adopted a broadened, local version of the COVID-19 case definition more than a week prior to the same change in the national case definition. This pre-empted the expected transmission in key locations such as Queenstown and allowed for wider testing.

Queenstown Medical Centre got its systems in place very promptly, and a Community Based Assessment Centre was established to increase local testing capacity.

Communication of case locations

There have been several requests for more specific locations when reporting case numbers. While the Ministry of Health have moved to reporting cases by DHB region, the Southern DHB decided to report by Territorial Authority as a way of providing clear public information while maintaining patient confidentiality. We will not be breaking case numbers down into more specific locations at this time as this can increase the chance of individuals being identified.

We can do this, together

Health sector efforts directed at ‘keeping it out’ and ‘stamping it out’ will be much more effective now that the whole community is staying home. Stay home, wash your hands and maintain physical distance from anyone who is not part of your bubble. Every single New Zealander has a role to play to make sure we succeed in minimising the impact of COVID-19.

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