20 Nov 2021

Covid Christmas may leave clinics cheerless

5:51 pm on 20 November 2021

General practitioners are preparing to navigate the holiday season with a potential surge in Covid-19 cases, as the virus continues to spread across the country.

This picture taken in Paris on December 22, 2020 shows a Christmas Santa Claus decoration, with a protective mask. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Photo: AFP or licensors

The medical director of the College of GPs, Dr Bryan Betty, said many practices typically close during the Christmas and New Year period - which could put pressure on hospitals and urgent care facilities.

"Rostering needs to be looked at very closely and perhaps having people on standby if demand does peak."

There has been concern about the number of intensive care units available and other stresses on the medical system if cases surge.

Modelling carried out by Professor Shaun Hendy and his team for the government showed a worst-case scenario of 16,000 weekly cases over summer, but Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield has said New Zealand is not likely to hit that number.

"Again a lot of this is very unknown at the moment," Dr Betty said.

"We're walking into uncharted territory at the moment as to what's going to happen with Covid, what the demands on the system will be.

"There's a lot of variables in terms of what could potentially happen."

The Auckland border is scheduled to open up for vaccinated or tested people 15 December.

"There is concern over the borders in Auckland coming down just before Christmas at a time when service levels at general practices are usually reduced due to the Christmas-New Year holiday period," Dr Betty said.

"So if Covid does spread throughout the country and there are a surge in cases, how the system will cope with that."

"I think the thinking is around how do you maintain service if there is an increased demand or increased need for demand in terms of possible Covid cases?

"So what's happening in local areas is planning or thinking around that and how service is maintained at that time."

Covid-19 cases are starting to spread around the country, with cases erupting in Wellington, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Masterton and more in the past seven days.

There were 172 new community cases announced today.

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