The aged care sector is urgently asking health authorities to coordinate a national response to the coronavirus threat.

Rest homes and retirement villages could be especially vulnerable in the event of an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, with large groups of elderly and possibly unwell people living in close proximity.

So far death rates from the virus have been highest among elderly people. According to China's Centre for Disease Control, of those aged 60-69 who were infected, 3.6 per cent have died. For people aged 70-79 it's 8 per cent, and for those aged 80+ it's 14.8 per cent.

READ MORE
Q&A: What will coronavirus mean for NZ?
New reports send coronavirus death rates soaring
Coronavirus: Infections nine times higher outside of China
I have the coronavirus. So far, it isn't that bad

Advertisement

The New Zealand Aged Care Association and the Retirement Village Association say they have asked for meetings to talk about a national, coordinated response to Covid-19 and look at supplies of critical medical and safety equipment.

But they say they are "frustrated" by a "lack of responsiveness" from the Government and DHBs.

"Covid-19 is known to afflict older people more than any other cohort. There have already been outbreaks in overseas rest homes and this shows the need for aged care providers and DHBs to work together in a nationally co-ordinated response," New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said in a statement.

Simon Wallace, CEO of the NZ Aged Care Association, says facilities are ready for the flu but Covid-19 could be much worse. Photo / Supplied
Simon Wallace, CEO of the NZ Aged Care Association, says facilities are ready for the flu but Covid-19 could be much worse. Photo / Supplied

On Saturday, the World Health Organisation advised people over 60 or with long-term illnesses to avoid crowded places to reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus.

In New Zealand, providers were prepared for normal outbreaks such as the flu and norovirus, but Covid-19 could be on a bigger scale. That meant more staff and supplies could be needed, Wallace said.

The aged care sector could be part of the solution by caring for infected residents and preventing pressure on hospitals, he said.

Retirement Villages Association executive director John Collyns said there was no evidence of a nationally coordinated response - and if it existed, the association was "extremely disappointed" that it hadn't been consulted.

Retirement Villages Association executive director John Collyns says there's no evidence of a national coordinated response to Covid-19 for the aged care sector. Photo / Supplied
Retirement Villages Association executive director John Collyns says there's no evidence of a national coordinated response to Covid-19 for the aged care sector. Photo / Supplied

The two groups have formed a taskforce to work with the Government and health authorities.

Advertisement

More than 38,000 people live in aged residential care in New Zealand, and another 43,000 live in retirement villages, the sector says.

The Ministry of Health has been asked for comment but, due to the current volume of media enquiries, questions are likely to be addressed later today at a press conference.