Rotorua's first confirmed coronavirus case has one health board member concerned about the district's most deprived and vulnerable.

Today Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the man was one of eight new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The man, whose age has not been made public, arrived in the country from France on March 13.

Lakes District Health Board (DHB) said he was a tourist and was tested in the Waikato DHB area before going straight into self-isolation in accommodation in Rotorua.

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He had not had or needed health care while in the Lakes DHB area.

Today we have Lakes’ first positive COVID-19 case. This person was tested in the Waikato DHB area and went straight...

Posted by Lakes District Health Board on Wednesday, 18 March 2020

He was New Zealand's 24th confirmed case, with the total now 28. All new cases related to overseas travel and Bloomfield said there was still no evidence of community spread.

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said the public health team was following up people who had been in contact with the man and appropriate steps would be taken.

"For example, all of the individual's close contacts will be put into protective quarantine," he said.

The man's flight information will be on the Ministry of Health website as soon as possible.

Shoemack said continued vigilance, along with thorough follow-up of all cases, would help to delay the virus from spreading in the local community.

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr. Phil Shoemack continued vigilance and follow-ups of all cases, would help to delay the virus from spreading. Photo / File
Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr. Phil Shoemack continued vigilance and follow-ups of all cases, would help to delay the virus from spreading. Photo / File

"We anticipated we would get cases of Covid-19 in our region at some stage, and all parts of the local health system have been preparing for its arrival."

Shoemack said if someone was concerned about their health, they should call Healthline or their local doctor.

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Do not turn up to a health or medical centre without calling, he said.

"As with other infectious illnesses, the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19 is to practice good infection prevention and hygiene."

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said community-based access centres were being established by DHBs as required to support and would vary from region to region.

This may take the form of specially designated GP practices or new locations set up to only focus on testing.

The centres were designed to take the load off general practice teams and emergency departments and reduce exposure risk for healthcare workers in other walk-in care locations.

Lakes District Health Board have started up a coronavirus swabbing centre system at Rotorua today in a central location that will be open each day from 10am to 3pm.

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Swabbing is by appointment only and must come through the dedicated Healthline number: 0800 3585453.

Te Puna Ora o Mataatua have set up a testing station in Whakatāne for the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty Area and planned to set up sites in Ōpōtiki and Kawerau.

Lakes District Health Board member Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says it will be concerning when coronavirus begins spreading through locals. Photo / File
Lakes District Health Board member Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says it will be concerning when coronavirus begins spreading through locals. Photo / File

The centres would be able to take swabs from every person who needed to be tested, the ministry spokeswoman said.

"Currently we are in the keep it out, stamp it out phase of the pandemic and levels of Covid-19 swabbing are being well managed by GPs and hospitals."

But as the number of suspected cases increased, more swabs would need to be taken in order to support contact tracing and our efforts to contain the disease, she said.

Lakes DHB member and Rotorua Lakes Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait was concerned about the vulnerability of residents as the district has a high level of deprivation.

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"We're coming into winter and at this time of the year, those that already have immune systems which are compromised need to be extra, extra careful."

She said everyone needed to do everything they could which meant staying home and away from large gatherings.

"The fact that he's come from overseas is one thing, the more concerning thing for me is when it has come from community transfers," she said.

"It can be quite a fearful time ... it's important we keep in contact, not physical contact obviously."

Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey, Labour Party says the
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey, Labour Party says the "worried well" need to stay away from hospitals and medical centres. Photo / File

"We are looking out for each other but this is the first one and there will be more."

Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey, Labour Party, said it was paramount the "worried well" did not fill hospitals and general practices so to take pressure of the district's health system.

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"We need to make sure hospitals and health services are dealing with people that have genuine concerns," he said.

"We don't want anyone with a runny nose to be rushing off to our doctors ... that puts a strain on our health system and our medical staff on the frontline."

He said the case would be tackled the same as it was throughout the country.

The biggest focus had been limiting the spread and protecting people.

He said it was something our health system could deal with "at the moment" and the community needed to ensure they looked after themselves and one another.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said a case in the city was highly probable and the Ministry would ensure all the right things were done.

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She said Selwyn Primary School, who notified the school community about two pupils and a teacher awaiting results for Covid-19, would be guided by the ministry, too.

"It's important to remember we still do not have community transmission, all cases to date are related to travel.

"We need to maintain calm and common sense and take practical precautions, as advised by the Ministry of Health."

She said procedures and practices were being put in place by the council to reduce the risk to staff and the community.

"We wish the patient well."

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says the community needed to maintain calm and common sense and take practical precautions. Photo / File
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says the community needed to maintain calm and common sense and take practical precautions. Photo / File

Rotorua MP Todd McClay, National Party, said as there would likely be more cases, the community needed to follow the advice of from medical agencies.

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"People will be understandably concerned and I encourage them to stay calm," he said.

"I have great confidence in our doctors, nurses and health professionals at Rotorua Hospital. I know they're working extremely hard and will do everything to make sure people are safe."

McClay said it was important people checked on family and friends to make sure they were also caring for themselves properly.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay, National Party said as there would likely be more cases. Photo / File
Rotorua MP Todd McClay, National Party said as there would likely be more cases. Photo / File

The Ministry of Health have a list on their website of all the confirmed cases which is updated as information comes to them.