While there are no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus in the Bay of Plenty DHB area, some people have isolated themselves at home after returning from trips to China. Jean Bell reports.
Twenty-six people are in self-isolation in the Bay of Plenty DHB area for coronavirus.
This comes as the Bay of Plenty DHB has revealed what its pandemic response plan entails.
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Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Neil de Wet said those who are self-isolating were registered with the Ministry of Health's national teleservice and the public health service did not have any further information than the numbers provided.
The on-call local medical officer of health would be notified if anyone developed concerning symptoms.
As of yesterday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, in New Zealand, but the Ministry of Health says the likelihood of a case is high.
According to the DHB's Pandemic/Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan, dated February 2020, an emergency operation centre, staffed by an incident management team 24 hours a day, would be operated out of the ground floor of Tauranga Hospital.
Community-based assessment centres and clinics would be set up to help slow transmission by separating patients with coronavirus symptoms from other patients and reducing the demand on other health services.
If patients required ventilation, the Tauranga Hospital ICU had 20 beds and the capacity to ventilate up to six patients, or up to eight using two transport ventilators in a crisis. Whakatāne Hospital ICU had six beds and could ventilate two patients.
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Pandemic medicines included antibiotics, antiviral medication, and vaccines.
Meanwhile, GP services were responsible for stocking a "pandemic starter kit", which included 100 N95 masks, 300 surgical masks, 50 antibacterial gowns, one box of antibacterial wipes, 12 500ml antibacterial hand gels, eight goggles, one visor, three boxes of latex gloves, 50 hair covers, 50 aprons, one face shield, 10 biohazard bags and 50 shoe covers.
The response plan also highlighted "priority groups" which were more susceptible to diseases, such as morbidly obese, Pacific Islanders, Māori and people with serious pre-existing conditions such as respiratory or heart conditions.
Rotorua's Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua had been identified as a suitable quarantine facility for people who do not have a permanent residence.
Toi Te Ora Public Health would initially be responsible for quarantine, with the DHB assisting if the number of patients became unmanageable.
DHB emergency planning team leader Josephine Peters said the health provider stakeholder groups in the Western and Eastern Bay met up three times a year to discuss emergency planning issues. Staff and managers were also offered emergency training.
Medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack previously told NZME good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, together with isolating suspected cases, were the main measures to prevent the spread.
Good hygiene included covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing and washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and drying them thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet, after coughing or sneezing and after caring for sick people.
Tauranga City Council general manager community services Gareth Wallis said the lead agency for a human-centric pandemic response was the Ministry of Health but the council would work with the ministry to provide support regarding the provision of essential services to the community under its control, such as water.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said it has an up-to-date New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan and maintains preparedness for a pandemic. The plan was used in 2009 to respond to the H1N1 influenza pandemic (swine flu).
The National Health Co-ordination Centre was in regular contact with DHBs to ensure they were prepared to respond to cases of coronavirus in New Zealand and to provide support as required.
Pharmacies and medical suppliers feeling the pressure
A Bay of Plenty medical supplies company that bore the brunt of people "panic buying" face masks was still facing heightened demand.
Mount Maunganui business Capes Medical managing director Peter Capes told NZME last week staff were working overtime to keep pace after the business sold 30 years of face mask stock in a week.
Capes said on Wednesday demand was still "crazy" but this had been tempered by the business posting a notice on its website about the sell-outs.
"Things only settled down when we took some items off the website, [but] we're still getting calls every 10 minutes."
He said the company received an inquiry on behalf of the World Health Organisation to send supplies to the Pacific Islands, but he had to direct the query elsewhere.
Inquiries came from New Zealanders wanting a mask to wear while travelling. Interest continued to come from Chinese-New Zealanders looking to send supplies back to family in China.
There was no indication when items would be back in stock.
Unichem Metro Bethlehem pharmacy owner Steel Shin also said demand for products such as face masks had increased, particularly from people wanting to send them back to family in China or people set to travel to Asia.
"We've pretty much sold out of hand sanitiser," he said.
Pharmacy staff were vigilant about informing people about the need to self-isolate if they had recently come back from China.
• Fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
• These were similar to a range of other illnesses, including the flu, so if someone had these symptoms it did not necessarily mean they had coronavirus.
More information on coronavirus
• Head to the Ministry of Health or Toi Te Ora websites for the latest information.
• If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing call Healthline (for free) on 0800 611 116.