27 Feb 2020

Ministry of Health launches public campaign on coronavirus

From Checkpoint, 6:14 pm on 27 February 2020

The Ministry of Health is launching a public health campaign around coronavirus for New Zealand.

Six people in New Zealand are currently being tested for Covid-19, but the Health Ministry says they are mainly precautionary and aren't necessarily suspected cases of coronavirus.

The campaign will encourage people to be vigilant with washing and drying their hands, and the Ministry says with the flu season approaching in April, there will be an added emphasis on the need for people to get their flu jabs.

The flu shot will not protect people from coronavirus, but if people are already sick with something else, they are at greater risk of contracting a more severe case of the coronavirus.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay says it wouldn't be easy dealing with COVID-19 cases and flu season at the same time, but health officials must prepare for that possibility.

McElnay said any vaccine for the coronavirus would probably be about 18 months away.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has advised hospitals to have isolation rooms ready to go - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says hospitals are prepared.

And the Ministry of Health is promising to fill gaps in health clinics which say they've run out of equipment they would need to respond to a coronavirus outbreak.

This morning the College of GPs said many doctors' clinics had run out of protective gear like masks.

McElnay said the Ministry is talking to primary health providers and will get resources from overseas if needed.

She could not say exactly where the gaps were but says a health coordination centre is working with the places in need.