Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said all regions might not step down at the same time. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Elimination of Covid-19 doesn’t mean getting rid of it everywhere in New Zealand, the Director-General of Health says

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has hinted that different regions might end up on different alert levels when lockdown ends. 

Bloomfield said the lockdown goal of “elimination” didn’t mean getting rid of it everywhere. 

“The term elimination makes it sound like we can completely get rid of the virus and it will never come back,” Bloomfield said.

“Our goal is to get the number of cases right down again. And as soon as we can, we will want to be able to step down from level four to level three,” he said. 

“It may well be that we may not be able to do that in every part of the country at the same time.”

The Government had also ramped up its testing and a planned region-by-region analysis of testing rates would inform the country’s future move between alert levels, he said. 

Bloomfield said the largest number of Covid-19 cases were centred in four DHB areas: Southern DHB, Waikato, Auckland, and Waitemata.

“One of the things we’re now wanting to do is to look at the details of where those lab tests have been undertaken so that we can build a picture of the rate of testing in each region. And that will help inform our decision-making about moving between alert levels,” Bloomfield said.

He hinted that more cases of community transmission of Covid-19 were likely to come to light in the coming days.

To date, 82 percent of the 797 cases in New Zealand were linked to overseas travel or another confirmed case of Covid-19.

Eighty-nine new cases were reported today: 76 confirmed and 13 probable. Thirteen people were in hospital and two people were in ICU.

Bloomfield said community transmission represented just 1 percent of all cases. 

“A further 17 percent of cases are still being investigated. And we fully expect that many of those will transpire to be community transmission,” Bloomfield said. 

Community transmission was where the origins of someone’s Covid-19 infection couldn’t be traced to international travel or another known case. 

Testing and protective equipment

The Government is ramping up both its testing and the amount of personal protective equipment on order. 

Over 26,000 tests for Covid-19 had been conducted to date. On Wednesday, 2563 were conducted. 

Bloomfield said the country had the capacity to conduct over 4000 tests a day.

The testing was being conducted by a national network of eight labs. Next week that number would grow to 10. 

“We’re not reliant on a single platform. So we have, in a sense, our eggs in more than one basket,” Bloomfield said.

“We can use their testing capacity around the country where and when it’s needed so we can move test volumes to another lab,” he said.

Bloomfield said he was also closely following overseas research on the use of face masks. 

Forty-one million more face masks would arrive over the next six weeks and could be made available to the public, he said. 

Bloomfield acknowledged new research indicated “routine wearing of face masks when they’re out in public may help reduce transmission”. 

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