6 Aug 2020

Covid-19: No new cases today as Bloomfield urges households to get face masks

1:47 pm on 6 August 2020

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today as the government announces its plan for CovidCard and discusses when the country would need to wear masks.

Watch the briefing here:

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield today said the Ministry of Health has updated its advice on face masks.

It is now recommending households add sufficient masks for every member of the household.

"These do not need to be medical-grade masks."

Currently it is not necessary to wear masks, Bloomfield said, but if there are further outbreaks of Covid-19, masks will be another important component for the government's strategy.

"We are asking members of the public to view face masks as another important component of their emergency preparedness kits," he said.

"Masks are one tool in the toolbox to help reduce the risk of spread between people. Our elimination strategy of course is still based on strong border protection, testing, contact tracing, isolating people who are infected and of course - the minister's mentioned this - physical distancing."

"We will be continuing to work with the health system to ensure there are medical-grade masks available to people who need them."

Bloomfield said the masks would be an "extra line of defence".

He said his understanding is that there is about 12 million masks available and there is also the opporutunity to create your own masks.

No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, Bloomfield has confirmed.

Dr Bloomfield said one person has recovered, bringing the total number of active cases to 23. The total number of confirmed cases in the country is 1219.

No one is receiving hospital-level care for Covid.

Yesterday labs processed 5020 tests, 219 of those were taken in managed isolation.

"I can't emphasis enough how important that testing is as part of our overall strategy," Dr Bloomfield said.

The pop-up centre in Queenstown had over 1050 people showing up on Tuesday alone for testing.

There were 1076 swabs in total taken at the pop-up centres, all had a negative result.

Four auckland community testing centres are in Northcote, Henderson, Grafton and Wiri, and there are four additional mobile testing units being set up in Auckland.

There will be an additional centre each in Auckland and Christchurch with locations to be announced.

Two stations will be set up in Palmerston North on Friday, one at New World Pioneer and one at an event at the Pacific community centre at Bill Brown Park.

Taranaki will have an additional pop-up testing clinic at the New World car park.

CovidCard trial

Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced that government is going to trial CovidCard technology in Rotorua before making any further decisions about rolling them out nationally.

He said initial assessments by the University of Otago show the technology could make a decent contribution to the country's contact tracing.

"The CovidCard won't store location data or track users, it simply blindly records the length and distance from others who have the cards who are up to five metres away."

"As New Zealanders we are all rightly proud of what we have achieved as a team of five million ... but it isn't scaremongering to say that it could all change, and it could all change very quickly. that is simply a statement of fact."

"While it's also undeniable that today we politicians all head out on the campaign trail, the fact is that the Covid-19 virus will not be taking six weeks off while we do that."

Hipkins said he's "reasonably" certain the card would not become mandatory.

Dr Bloomfield yesterday said community transmission of Covid-19 in the country is inevitable and people should not be complacent about keeping a record of where they've been.

He yesterday told Morning Report "it's a matter of when, not if" New Zealand got community transmission.

Both Bloomfield and Hipkins have been pushing for more Kiwis to download the official Covid-19 app and be more diligent about record keeping.

It has been 97 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source. But Dr Bloomfield said getting a community transmission case wouldn't necessarily mean the country would move up alert levels.

That scenario could be avoided if people used the NZ Covid Tracer app so contacts could be found quickly, isolated and tested, he said.

"The key thing is finding a case as quickly as possible before it has a chance to spread too far in the community."

He said the app has already proven its value after the case of the person who left New Zealand and travelled to South Korea who has since proved to have Covid-19. The app data supplied voluntarily by people was used to contact people who had been where he had been.

Push for privately-run managed isolation

There have been talks in the business community of setting up private, pay-as-you-go isolation hotels so that borders could be reopened to foreign students, highly skilled workers, and wealthy tourists.

However, the minister in charge of the isolation facilities, Megan Woods, says the government is not currently considering it.

And Finance Minister Grant Robertson today told Morning Report that, although the government is open to options, safety is the main priority.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

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