22 Mar 2020

Health professionals urge government to adopt Alert Level 4

8:35 pm on 22 March 2020

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition created by a Wellington urgent care physician calling for the government to ramp up its Covid-19 response.

 A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

A doctor is calling for more testing and contact tracing in New Zealand. Photo: AFP

The petition calls for:

  • The full quarantine of patients rather than self-isolation.
  • Increased testing and contact tracing.
  • Self-isolation of all asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) contacts.
  • A mandatory social lockdown.

Petition author Dr Kelvin Ward said New Zealand needs to do everything possible to avoid the situations currently facing other countries.

"Being a doctor at this time is like standing on the shore and watching the tide go out with a tsunami coming in and that's sort of how it feels when you know what's happening overseas as to the potential impact of what could happen in New Zealand," he told RNZ.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

In his statement supporting the petition, he said while the government had acted admirably in its communication so far, medical professionals did not believe the country was doing enough to lessen the impact of Covid-19.

He said without immediate action, New Zealand risked suffering the same fate as Italy and the United States - running out of supplies, turning patients away and the possibility they may die needlessly.

Covid-19's impact had been reduced by the countries that had responded rapidly and extensively. Examples included Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan and now New Zealand needed to choose which path it would take, Ward said.

Today it was revealed that the death toll in Italy leapt by 793 to 4825 - by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged in that country a month ago.

The new deaths represent an increase of 19.6 percent. On Friday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly-contagious virus.

Also today, it was announced that non-essential services will begin to close in New South Wales and Victoria over the next 48 hours, as Australia tries to slow the growth of the deadly disease before tens of thousands die from it.

More details were expected to be released after a federal Cabinet meeting, however, previous federal government advice pertaining to "non-essential indoor gatherings" included restaurants, pubs, cafes, cinemas, weddings and funerals.

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