Nelson Marlborough Health Chief Medical Officer Nick Baker says increasing numbers of cases means people must act as if Omicron is in their neighbourhood.
“The pandemic we have had for the last two years has been a pandemic of planning and prevention. Now we are managing COVID-19, we need to treat it with respect, not fear.
“For most people COVID-19 remains a mild disease. For a small number of people it is very serious.”
“The peak is coming and by being cautious now we can continue to flatten the peak. This is important because the peak is not the end – we will continue to see cases of this potentially nasty disease for some time.
“We can all help to flatten the curve. Slowing the spread benefits all parts of our society, keeping services and supply chains working.
Nelson Hospital’s Omicron response is shifting to the next phase with the activation of a COVID-19 Ward.
Lexie O’Shea, Chief Executive Officer, Nelson Marlborough Health said with COVID-19 positive patients admitted to the hospital and a number presenting to the Emergency Department now was the time to prepare for increased demand.
“As of today Nelson Hospital has three COVID-19 positive patients admitted to respiratory isolation rooms.
“With the number of cases active in the community we have reached the point where we need to activate the next stage of our response plan and establish a specific COVID-19 ward.
Nelson Marlborough Health general manager Strategy Primary and Community Cathy O’Malley says in Phase Three of the Omicron response, rapid antigen tests (RATs) are now the main diagnostic tool.
“Registering your results is a crucial step to ensure quick access to healthcare pathways or welfare options. RATs make it easier and quicker than ever to get a result, and you can take the test home to complete. This will help reduce long queues at testing stations.
“For those without access to digital or mobile phone options, there’s also the option of a supervised RATs test at Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) where people will help you load your results.
The number of cases in Nelson has increased sharply with over 50 cases testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday 16 February. This indicates undetected transmission in the community.
A further two schools have been identified as impacted by COVID-19 with the Public Health team working closing with the Ministry of Education and Nayland College and Victory Primary School.
Dr Stephen Bridgman, Medical Officer of Health, Nelson Marlborough Health said, “The Nelson Marlborough community did a fantastic job in Phase One of ‘stamping out’ Omicron. This delayed the spread of infection in the community meaning more people were able to get boosted and prepared.
“We know that we cannot stop Omicron. The escalation of cases in Nelson over the past two days shows how quickly it can spread and how disruptive it can be to workplaces and schools. It also shows how prepared education and workplaces are in supporting employees, students and communities through Omicron.
- Marlborough - 2 active cases
- Nelson/Tasman - 19 active cases
Nelson Marlborough Health has been advised of a number of exposure events including a workplace and school in Nelson which are being investigated by Public Health as COVID-19 exposure events. Nelson Hospital Emergency Department has also had COVID-19 positive presentations.
Dr Stephen Bridgman, Medical Officer of Health, Nelson Marlborough Health said, “We are shifting into a new phase of our Omicron response. We should act as if Omicron is in our community. This doesn’t mean we need to be afraid, but does mean we need to be prepared."
"It is not too late to vaccinate. Getting your booster or childhood immunisation remains the most important thing you can do for yourself, your whānau and your local health services.
"In Nelson Marlborough we saw a really strong uptake of the childhood immunisation with 46% of children between 5 and 11 at least partially vaccinated. However as schools have started back we have seen a sharp decline in the number of children presenting for immunisation.
"While children and young people are less likely to become seriously ill, some will become very sick and need to go to hospital.
"Children infected with COVID-19 may transmit the virus to other people such as grandparents or classmates whose current health condition may make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
"Schools are doing a great job at providing opportunities for children to continue their learning from home when well and isolating. Through vaccination we can collectively reduce the burden of COVID-19 in the community helping to keep our schools and workplaces open.
"The Trafalgar Centre in Nelson and Stadium 2000 in Blenheim remain open for walk-ins this week. There is a lot of capacity in these centres so do not delay, get vaccinated today.
"The Public Health team are working with the Ministry of Education and a Nelson school regarding a school exposure event. All close contacts have been identified by the school and have been asked to isolate.
"Yesterday a workplace was identified with a number of positive COVID-19 cases. The workplace has been working with the Public Health team to enable staff to isolate and get tested. Today multiple staff have tested positive to COVID-19. Further cases are expected to be identified as PCR test results are received and processed this afternoon and tomorrow.
"At 11.59 tonight (Tuesday 15 February) we shift to Phase two of the Public Health Omicron response plan. The purpose of this phase is to ‘flatten the curve’ of infection.
"As case numbers increase, flattening the curve is important to ensure our community, workplaces, schools and health system are in the best position of managing COVID-19.
"Testing remains important in Phase Two. If you are unwell or have symptoms don’t go to school or work. Please do get tested and wait for your result. A PCR test will continue to be the main form of test used to check whether you are positive for COVID-19.
"The drive through testing station in Nelson at the Saxton Field parking area up by Oaklands Milk remains open 9am to 6pm daily.
"In Marlborough there Urgent Care Centre is providing COVID-19 testing between 1pm and 4pm daily.
"All locations and hours available on the Healthpoint website including by appointment opportunities at medical centres (GP), please phone ahead first.
"What people will notice as different in Phase Two is the shift to digital technologies. As case numbers grow, low-risk people who test positive for COVID-19 will be able to complete an online form instead of doing a public health phone or in person interview. This allows for targeted support to people without access to a mobile phone or a website.
"Other changes include the period of self-isolation for people who test positive, reducing from 14 days to 10 days. People who live in the same household as a confirmed case will also immediately self-isolate for 10 days.
"Close contacts now need to isolate for seven days, noting that people who live in the same household as a close contact, do not need to isolate but should be on the lookout for symptoms.
"With Omicron now present in a number of community settings we should all be monitoring for symptoms and getting tested."
Nelson Marlborough Medical Officer of Health Dr Andrew Lindsay said people in Nelson Marlborough still have an opportunity in Phase One to slow the spread and impact of the virus by vaccinating sooner rather than later.
“We are still in Phase One, ‘stamp it out’. We have cases in the community who are in isolation. This allows time for people to become fully vaccinated and protected from the virus.
“We have a short window of opportunity before community cases are expected to become widespread.
“So far, there’s been great uptake of booster shots, with the overall total at 70% in Nelson Marlborough. The total for our Māori population is 58%.
“We are very thankful people are protecting themselves, their whānau and the wider community. But this is no time to wait. We need to get as many people as possible boosted and vaccinated before we see numbers escalate.
There is one new COVID-19 case to announce in Nelson Marlborough today. This case is linked to a previously reported case.
Nelson Marlborough Medical Officer of Health Dr Stephen Bridgman said the source of the Tāhunanui case remains unknown with case investigation ongoing.
“I strongly advise everyone who stayed at the park between January 30 and February 5 to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days after you were exposed. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result.
“Mobile testing and vaccination was available at the Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park over the weekend. One hundred and thirty-eight people who stayed at the motor camp have been tested so far, and nobody was positive.
This Waitangi Weekend there will be no local updates on the January Omicron Cluster.
The Ministry of Health will continue to report any confirmed cases in the Nelson Marlborough region. These updates can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
Why not use this long weekend to make sure your whānau and friends are prepared for Omicron?
- Check your vaccinations are up-to-date. Stadium vaccination centers are available in Nelson and Blenheim this weekend. The team at BookMyVaccine are able to answer your vaccination questions and help you book an appointment online or on the phone 0800 28 29 26. Or check out the Healthpoint website for a range of venues and times.
- Prepare your household with this handy checklist and step-by-step guide from the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
- Keep an eye on the Locations of Interest and know where to go to get a test. Locations of interest are updated regularly on the Ministry of Health website. There are currently locations of interest across Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough. Testing stations can be found on the Healthpoint website.
The Communications team will be back onboard from Tuesday 8 February.
There are three COVID-19 cases, in two households, to announce in Marlborough today. All of the cases are known close contacts of existing cases, and do not represent undetected community transmission in Blenheim according to Dr Stephen Bridgman, Medical Officer of Health.