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Daily Media Update - Wednesday 13 May 2020

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No new cases in Southern

The Ministry of Health has announced no new COVID-19 cases in the Southern district today. The region’s total remains 216, with seven active cases, 207 now recovered and two deceased.

In the Southern district it has now been 25 days since a new case was reported.

Please note confirmed and probable cases are combined, to match Ministry case reporting. For a breakdown by Territorial Authority please visit the Southern Health website:

Current assessment by Medical Officer of Health

As New Zealand heads into Level 2, the Southern district is probably at the lowest point of risk of COVID-19 since the first case was reported, Dr Susan Jack, Medical Officer of Health, Southern DHB said today.

Testing of more than 2,500 asymptomatic people in Southern, all with negative results, has given assurance that we do not have community transmission of COVID-19.  However, as the country starts to open up there is a small risk that people from other regions could re-introduce the disease to the Southern district.

While that risk is low, it is imperative that anyone in Southern with any symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, or any flu-like symptoms should stay at home, and contacts Healthline or their GP to organise a COVID-19 test.  Testing is free.

These people should stay at home until the result of their test is available.  If the test is positive, they must stay in isolation until declared recovered by Public Health South, and their immediate close contacts should also self-isolate.

Public Health South will be closely watching the situation and ready to act rapidly, if needed.

Dr Jack said the lockdown and increased handwashing meant that Southern was heading into an unexpectedly low flu season.  However, opening of schools and workplaces would see flu symptoms start to rise.

She emphasised the continuing need for people to practice physical distancing (2 metres with strangers, 1 metre with their workmates), good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.

“I ask the Southern media to help us get this message out to our communities – if you are have any symptoms, we need you to get tested immediately.  You are not over-reacting, you will be helping keep yourself, your whānau and your community safe,” she said.

Level 2 – Comments from Chris Fleming, CEO, Southern DHB

 The movement of Southern DHB services to Alert Level 2 is another step in the journey towards a more sustainable New Zealand and in the health system moving back towards normality.

I urge people in Southern to be cautious.  We still have the threat of COVID-19 and we need to be vigilant, both within the health system and in our community.

We have a significant amount of work to catch up on the around 900 surgeries that were postponed and around 16,000 health care interactions that didn’t take place because of COVID-19.

We have many people who need care, and we will be looking to build up on the lessons we have learned and the innovations that have arisen as part of our response to COVID-19.  These are things like increased use of telehealth, effective partnerships with primary care and the work of the rural hospitals.

I welcomed the Government’s announcement of increased health funding for DHB’s yesterday and the money provided to help us catch up on the care that was delayed by COVID. Without a strong health sector, all other parts of our community are at risk.

Right now our teams are looking at how we can provide safe, effective services under Level 2.

Moving to Level 2 will greatly increase the number of people entering hospitals and this needs to be carefully managed, to keep our patients, staff and visitors safe.  We will continue to screen both patients and visitors as they enter our facilities, and we are working on ways to be able to identify who has entered our hospitals and how we can trace them if we need to.

It means that while rules around visiting will be further relaxed, this is unlikely to start until next week, as we put in place screening procedures for greater numbers of people.  So this means this week, we will continue to allow one visitor per day and the visiting hours are between 2pm and 6pm.

We also need to remind people about the importance of physical distancing.  While we take physical distancing very seriously, please be aware to treat patients effectively, at times our staff will have very close engagement with patients, closer than one metre.

Also, if you are being treated in the green stream in our facilities, staff may not be wearing PPE.  If you are treated in the red stream, staff will be following defined PPE processes.  Please be assured that our staff will be following Ministry of Health and Technical Advisory Group guidelines.

On behalf of Southern DHB I thank the people of Southern for their support, understanding and patience over this unprecedented time.  I urge you to stay vigilant and work together with us to keep all of our people safe as we continue this journey.