News and Notices

NMH COVID-19 Update: 25 March 2020

1. Total confirmed cases in the Nelson Marlborough region

One new confirmed case and one probable case was announced by the Ministry of Health today, bringing the total of announced, confirmed and probable cases in the region to 12.

A ‘probable case’ is a person who has returned a negative lab test result but the clinician treating them believes that, based on clinical symptoms and exposure history, that they are very likely to be a case.

Contact tracing is underway as required by the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service (NMPHS) and the national close contact tracing service.

Any relevant detail about confirmed cases’ travel is published on the Ministry of Health’s website:

The new cases (using national numbering) are:

Case 174: A man in his 80s is in self-isolation in Marlborough
Case 14 (probable): A man in his 20s is in self-isolation in Marlborough

2. Contact tracing information

The NMPHS undertakes contact tracing for confirmed cases, and their close contacts (eg families, flatmates who live in the same house) in our region.

Other contact tracing (eg for people on flights), is undertaken by the specialised national close contact tracing service.

Our message for the community is that the NMPHS, and the national close contact tracing service, undertake expert contact tracing to reach close contacts – the people most at risk – as they determine necessary. Close contacts will be contacted directly.

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) will not disclose personal information about a confirmed case’s movements if it is not useful to the contact tracing process or when that contact’s movements have not placed the public at risk.

NMH will take a proactive approach and alert the public (eg via media release and social media) about a location, or event, when this is determined necessary. A public alert would be issued when it has been determined that members of the public at a certain location or event may be possible casual contacts, and would be unable to be identified and contacted through the contact tracing process.

The process

  1. Any positive COVID-19 case is statutorily reported to a Medical Officer of Health in the NMPHS
  2. Every case is then interviewed by a NMPHS employee to determine risk factors, including travel
  3. Contact tracing commences
  4. Every case is monitored by the NMPHS until a Medical Officer of Health has determined that it is safe for the person to come out of isolation.
  5. For definitions of close and causal contacts, and more information about contact tracing:


3. Alerts to the public regarding possible casual contacts with confirmed cases

There are no current alerts. See section 2 for an explanation of when a public alert would be issued.


4. Testing numbers for Nelson Marlborough

Queries about the number of people undergoing testing for COVID-19, or about test/swab supplies, should be directed to the Ministry of Health.


5. Numbers of people in self-isolation

NMH does not have access to information about the numbers of people in voluntary self-isolation. This information is held as a centralised register by Healthline and the Ministry of Health.


6. Questions about hospital beds and equipment

There are 244 beds available across both hospitals. There is capacity, as planned for in hospital pandemic planning, to reconfigure bed use and wards as required.







Negative pressure rooms



Intensive care unit (ICU) beds



7. Queries about non-compliance with self-isolation or mass gatherings

There is a dedicated email address established solely for non-compliance/enforcement issues: [email protected].


8. Community-based assessment centres

There are three community-based assessment centres (CBAC): Nelson, Blenheim and Motueka. See the webpage for detail:

The number to call for information about CBACs is: 0800 358 4636.


9. Pre-triage cabins

‘Pre-triage’ cabins have been set up at urgent care centres, hospital emergency departments and smaller regional healthcare centres (eg Golden Bay and Picton).

These allow for the safe assessment of people with COVID-19 symptoms, away from other patients in waiting rooms. These are not the same as CBACs and are not intended as ‘walk-in’ centres however – they are for people who would normally be attending ED or a medical centre.

In Murchison, there is a separate entrance to a negative pressure room, separate to other parts of the hospital and health centre.


10. Hospital planning and management: Reduced visitor hours and numbers

To ensure the safety and security of staff, patients and the public, NMH has introduced managed access to its facilities.
Information about this is online here:


11. Hospital planning and management: Changes to planned care (elective procedures)

In response to the New Zealand COVID-19 Alert Level 3 status announced on Monday 23 March, NMH will reprioritise all healthcare services.

As a result all non-urgent elective services and procedures, and outpatient appointments, will be postponed. All affected patients will be contacted.
Lexie O’Shea, Incident Controller, Hospital Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for COVID-19 wants to assure people that appropriate capacity for acute and emergency patients remains.

“Acute or urgent healthcare will be available. However, planned care, that is non-urgent surgery and procedures, will be affected,” Mrs O’Shea says.

“I appreciate that this may be frustrating news for many people, but we are operating in unprecedented times and the situation requires us to respond accordingly.”

If people require healthcare advice:

  1. contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or their General Practice
  2. dial 111 for emergencies

Refer to the NMH website for up-to-date news or


12. Measures to protect Nelson Marlborough Health staff

The safety of our staff is one of our highest priorities.

The hospital planning measures above will also help protect our staff

Staff are being trained on how to manage patients with COVID-19, and simulations or ‘dummy’ practice runs are being undertaken.

In many cases the protocols and health pathways are similar to those already tested and proven for other infectious respiratory diseases.

We are working to ensure that we have the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for staff and that they are aware of the correct procedures in dealing with COVID-19.

Questions about national PPE stock reserves, and the availability of this to healthcare services, should be directed to the Ministry of Health.

13. Immunisation against influenza

Influenza vaccination for healthcare workers is underway.

We strongly encourage our employees to take advantage of their free flu vaccination to protect themselves, patients, families and the community.

It is really important that our staff have the influenza vaccinate this year to help them stay well. It is also really important for the public to have the vaccine too. The influenza vaccine helps prevent a serious illness that could place significant pressure on healthcare services in New Zealand.

Being immunised against the flu will help to ensure that these services are available for those who need them the most.


14. Public health advice

Advice from Dr Nick Baker, Chief Medical Officer, Nelson Marlborough Health

“Do everything to you possibly can to make it hard for the virus to spread across our community. Everyone has a part of play to slow the spread.”

“Think of the virus as an unwelcome hitchhiker – don’t make it easy for it to get on board and spread to others.”

Dr Baker’s top tips are:

Hygiene is essential

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid non-essential personal contact. Avoid sharing cups or food with other people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Practice low-touch shopping. Do not handle things you are not buying, keep your distance, be aware of how you are touching things like bank cards, money, ATMs and Eftpos machines. Wash your hands after touching things like this as soon as you can.
  • If you are a business or provide a service: Increase your cleaning routine in between customers.
  • People living in communal spaces must be especially careful with distancing, cleaning and general hygiene.

Physical distancing is essential

  • Try to put physical distance (two metres) between yourself and other people in public places such as supermarkets
  • Be kind to others: Make it easy for them to keep 2m from you – eg, keep a 2m space in front of you in a supermarket queue, and stay 2m back from counters and reception desks

Staying at home if you are unwell is essential

  • Do not go into any public places if you are feeling unwell and minimise close contact even in your home – ring ahead if you need a service
  • Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have undertaken any overseas travel in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19. Please do not go directly to a pharmacy, GP clinic, urgent care centre or emergency department.