At least four of the 39 Covid-19 cases in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes district health boards are not directly linked to international travel.

They do however, relate to outbreaks in other parts of New Zealand, which means community transmission was not yet a problem for the Lakes District.
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The number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise throughout the Bay of Plenty region and the Lakes District Health Board is preparing should numbers increase even further.

There are now 868 Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, including 39 in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts. A total of 28 cases are in the Bay of Plenty - 27 in the Western Bay and one in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, and 11 are in the Lakes district - four in Taupō and seven in Rotorua.


Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said at least four of the cases are not not linked to overseas travel and instead were related to "outbreaks" elsewhere in New Zealand.

He said there was no "evidence of community transmission" in the Lakes district.

A Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman said there were no patients with confirmed Covid-19 in any hospitals in its area but preparations were well under way to ensure they were prepared if the virus spread.

Preparations include postponing elective surgeries, adding beds in the Taupō and Rotorua Hospitals and asking private hospitals for help.

"We have been in contact with private hospitals in the region and have received a very positive, helpful response, and work is continuing in this area," the spokeswoman said.

Rotorua has added six hospital beds bringing the total number to 136, including six intensive care beds. Taupō has added five beds, bringing their total to 31. This does not include any intensive care beds.

"As of today all surgical patients with either a tentative or confirmed date through until the end of April have been contacted," the spokeswoman said.

"Cancer surgeries will continue during Covid-19, with theatre sessions planned during the week to manage acute and urgent patients in a timely manner."

A Covid-19 testing site has been erected at Rotorua's Energy Events Centre. Photo / Stephen Parker
A Covid-19 testing site has been erected at Rotorua's Energy Events Centre. Photo / Stephen Parker

Covid-19 patients will remain isolated at Rotorua Hospital and kept out of Taupō Hospital.

The spokeswoman said six beds are immediately available if needed for ventilated patients.
Patients from one of the hospital's wards have already been moved out to make space for Covid patients if needed.

A new community-based rehabilitation service has been set up to help people moved into community facilities or to their homes. The health board has also called for more healthcare workers.

"Nationwide there has been a very encouraging response to the call for healthcare workers. Lakes DHB is at the early stages of discussions with many of those people. A number of our existing nurses are being redeployed to work in shifts across the hospital services."

Part of preventing the spread of the virus is ensuring anyone who shows symptoms is tested as soon as possible.

"Our swabbing clinics have tested a total of 251 patients [as of March 31]. Staff wear full PPE [mask, gloves, gown, eye protection].

"A handful of staff from across the organisation have been tested for Covid-19. All of the results received have come back negative."

A Rotorua Hospital worker, who preferred to remain unnamed is in isolation awaiting the results.

"I haven't been in contact with anyone, I just felt like I couldn't breathe - shortness of breath. I think I was just paranoid because I work at the hospital so I could've been in contact with someone who had it.

"I probably don't have it but I wanted to do it for peace of mind because I get shopping for my neighbours, my partner's parent... . I wanted to get it done for them more than myself really."

She said the test was more uncomfortable than painful.

"It's a really thin, long cotton bud and it's more uncomfortable than sore.

"The lady from Healthline said on the phone it would be up to 72 hours [to get results] but the lady who did the test said it could take up to a week because there's such a high volume of tests being sent. She said to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the result."

Those confirmed to have Covid-19 are interviewed to assess the likely source of infection and who they could have infected.
The National Close Contact Service phones everyone who has been near the patient and explains the requirements to isolate. It also checks on their welfare and
Healthline will follow up with the person daily to check on symptoms, welfare needs and make sure they stay isolated.

Three Lakes Clinic GP Dr Cate Mills said although some patients are anxious the practice had been reassured by the Lakes District Health Board that their supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) was not at risk.

"A lot of people [are] coming in for flu vaccines. People over 65 and people with chronic conditions are the priority for probably the next two weeks and after that we'll vaccinate everyone."

Covid-19 testing sites have been set up for those who think they may have contracted the virus. Photo / Stephen Parker
Covid-19 testing sites have been set up for those who think they may have contracted the virus. Photo / Stephen Parker

Te Ngae Medical Centre practice manager Pip Oliver said the centre was only seeing about 10 per cent of the patients they would usually see face-to-face.

"It's all being done on the phone or peope are just putting it off." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website