District health boards are looking at booking hotels for medical workers, some of whom are considering staying away from loved ones for weeks.

Other health workers will use the provided accommodation to be closer to hospitals, where they could be needed to fill unfamiliar intensive care roles.

Sarah Dalton, executive director of the doctors and dentists' union, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said it was being kept up to date on the accommodation plans by Auckland and other DHBs.

"My sense is it is more likely to be staff residences or hotels ... they are looking at what they can do to support staff who either feel that they need to self-isolate from their families, or just that they need to be near the hospital, depending on how workload goes."


Frontline health workers caught and even died from Covid-19 amidst early overseas outbreaks, and there have been cases where the virus has then spread to their family members. However, the example of countries including Singapore show transmission can be avoided through strict observance of practices including hand hygiene.

Dalton said some health workers were still choosing to err on the side of caution and stay away from loved ones, particularly if they have immuno-compromised people in their household.

"They would rather be safe. I think those are personal decisions - we are certainly confident that where PPE [personal protective equipment] is appropriately used and good hand hygiene is used people should be fine to do their work and go home again."

Hotels have seen a plunge in bookings because of the spread of Covid-19 and the associated moves to contain it, including the closing of the border and now nationwide lockdown. University hostels may be another accommodation option and are near Auckland City Hospital.

Now the country is on alert level 3 - and soon to go to the highest level, 4 - elective surgeries and procedures in the public system are being deferred, with health workers including anaesthetists preparing to work in intensive care.

New Zealand aims to treble its current number of ICU beds, which stood at fewer than 180, and that requires staff to have urgent training so they can help out. The country's 39 private hospitals have also pledged help if the public system nears capacity.

Six patients with coronavirus are currently in hospital. All are stable and none needs ICU treatment.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website