New Zealand confirmed its first case of novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) on 28 February 2020. Since then over 200 more have tested positive.
This article was updated on 23rd March 2020.
Following the spread of the virus, The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic.
Governments around the world have been implementing plans to attempt to stop, or at least slow down, the spread of the virus. As of 25th March 2020, over 400,000 people have confirmed cases of the virus and sadly thousands have died. The majority of these cases have been in mainland China and Italy with other large outbreaks in South Korea, Iran, Spain, France, Holland, USA, and the UK.
The unknown elements of the virus along with travel and gathering restrictions, media coverage, and entire countries being put into lockdown, can lead to some anxiety about the spread of the virus. While it is prudent to keep informed of the latest health advice and follow it carefully, current information shows that most people with the virus are not severely ill. However, we must all do our part in restricting the spread of this virus to protect those most vulnerable in our community.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses including the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In early January 2020, health authorities in China identified a new type of coronavirus, called novel coronavirus (also known as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19). This viral respiratory illness was originally idenitified in Wuhan, China, among workers and visitors to a seafood and animal market.
The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell. Source: COVID19.govt.nz
As this is a new type of virus that has not been previously detected, there are a lot of things that are still to be fully understood. Early indications are that older people and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease.
Novel coronavirus in New Zealand
There are currently over 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. The majority of these relate to overseas travel or identified sources of infection, however there are a handful of cases that the Ministry of Health are investigating that could be classed as community spread.
Our border restrictions, our assertive contact tracing and monitored self isolation are central to our continued approach of keeping out COVID-19, stamping it out and slowing down its progression. Source: Ministry of Health
Since the announcement of the first confirmed case, communities across New Zealand have seen some panic buying of supplies from supermarkets. Whilst it is prudent to have stored supplies in case of an emergency (as all New Zealand homes should already have), there is no need for “hoarding” of months’ worth of supplies.
There has also been an increase in demand for face masks. The WHO have confirmed that there is no need for healthy people to wear a face mask to protect themselves from coronavirus, unless they are treating someone with a suspected infection. You can find out more on the WHO website.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Dry cough
- Difficulty breathing
These symptoms can also be caused by other illnesses, such as influenza, so it is important that if you are experiencing these symptoms that you seek medical attention. Having these symptoms does not mean that you have COVID-19 – this can only be confirmed through a laboratory test.
If you develop any of these symptoms you are encouraged to seek medical advice and confirm any recent travel history with your medical professional or by phoning Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453. Always phone ahead prior to visiting any health facility.
On 26th March New Zealand moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 4.
The advice from WHO and the Ministry of Health is that basic hygiene practices help to reduce the risk of infection:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
- Wash hands frequently, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
- Avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals
- People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette:
- maintain distance
- cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing
- wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and drying them thoroughly, before eating or handling food, after using the toilet, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
Anyone who is unwell should not attend work and should practice physical distancing. Confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 who are in strict isolation should maintain a two metre distance from others in the household.
Who should be self-isolating:
- As we are now in Alert Level 4, everyone should be self-isolating with the exception of those required for essential services
For more information on self-isolating, visit the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 website.
There is currently no vaccine available. However, researchers are working on developing a vaccine. As 2019-nCoV is a virus, antibiotics are not a suitable treatment.
From midnight on 19th March, New Zealand’s borders are closed to everyone except New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, their partners or dependent children, and Australian citizens usually resident in New Zealand. The full list can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
For the latest information on the novel coronavirus, visit the Ministry of Health’s new Unite Against COVID-19 website.
Although we make every effort to ensure the information we provide is accurate and up-to-date, the information contained in this website is not intended and must not be taken to be the provision or practice of medical advice or services nor a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have questions, concerns about your health or treatment or would like more information, contact your doctor. Always see your doctor or other qualified health professional before starting or changing any treatment.
Have you been concerned by the spread of the virus?
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”