Community spread must already be occurring, further action implored

Nearly all confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand have been linked to international travel, and there has been no confirmation of contracting the virus via community transmission – but this may be happening undetected.

Epidemiologist Doctor David Skegg – NZ’s Covid response: We need to be more open

The New Zealand Government should be congratulated on many aspects of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is an urgent need for more openness about the current situation and the options for controlling further spread of this disease.

Community transmission

For some weeks I have been concerned by repeated statements that the probability of community transmission of the coronavirus in this country is low. Not nearly enough testing has been carried out so far. Since testing has been heavily skewed towards people who have been overseas recently, it is hardly surprising that most of the cases detected had links to overseas travel.

All the epidemiologists I talk with expect that community transmission is already occurring, at least in some places. Why should the virus behave differently in New Zealand than elsewhere?

Authorities have argued that decisions about testing are left to the expert judgement of clinicians. Yet some clinicians have complained about difficulty in arranging tests.

There have reports that even people with possible Covid-19 symptoms are not being tested because they don’t have links to anyone who has travelled internationally.

I know a nurse who works in an aged care hospital who was off  work with symptoms last and tried to have a test, but was told she didn’t need one as she had no travel links.

US Senator Rand Paul tests positive for Covid-19

Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus…Paul has no symptoms and was tested out of “abundance of caution” given his recent travels

How many people with no symptoms are carrying and possible spreading the virus?

If this is common practice then community transmission won’t be detected because they are excluding that from testing.

People are surprised when I tell them that, allowing for population size, the epidemic of COVID-19 in New Zealand appears to be running only about 8 days behind that in the United Kingdom – a country that had no border controls.

The UK currently has 5,071 confirmed cases and 233 deaths.

We seem to be tracking a little behind Australia on spread, and they are making major moves this week, with NSW, Victoria and Queensland moving into lockdown on Tuesday.

ABC: NSW, Victoria and ACT jump the gun on PM’s indoor venue crackdown with early state-wide shutdowns

The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and ACT beat the Prime Minister in flagging a host of closures across their states on Sunday, hours before the Federal Government’s crackdown on indoor venues.

In their announcements earlier on Sunday, the three states said schools would remain open on Monday, but Victoria’s school holidays would be brought forward to start on Tuesday.

Queensland set to follow NSW and Victoria in shutting down non-essential services.

Western Australia and South Australia have joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory in requiring visitors to isolate for 14 days upon arrival, effectively closing the borders.

ABC: Crackdown on social distancing sees pubs, indoor sporting and religious venues to close

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says parents can keep their children in school, but licenced clubs, pubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and places of worship will close from midday Monday.
The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:
  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Australia currently has 1,353 cases and 7 reported deaths.

Things are escalating in Auckland – Seven Auckland schools shut

Students of seven Auckland schools will be staying home today due to Covid-19 cases and precautions.

Glendowie College is closed until Thursday after a student tested positive for Covid-19.

Marist College for girls in Mt Albert, where a teacher has the virus, is closed, as is the next door Marist Primary as a precaution. It’s expected to reopen Thursday.

Mount Roskill Grammar School where a parent has tested positive for Covid-19 is also closed, however, this is a scheduled closure. The parent, who returned from overseas March 12, attended a school event the same evening.

A Randwick Park Intermediate School student is a “probable case” and the school will be shut for 72 hours.

Tests on a Pukekohe High School student and a Pukekohe Intermediate School students were both negative however, the schools will remain closed until Tuesday. The decision was made as a precaution to avoid difficulty communicating to parents over the weekend if tests were positive.

Another school in Auckland alerted parents Sunday evening a teacher, who is a close contact to a confirmed case, is now in precautionary self-isolation. The teacher does not have symptoms and the school is remaining open.

In a letter from the Ministry of Education parents were told the risk was low.

“The latest evidence shows that, unlike influenza, there is a very low risk that a person is able to transmit the virus before they have symptoms.”

At present the Government’s stance is that shutting schools down isn’t necessary as there is not widespread community transmission here.

There’s concern preemptively shutting schools could mean grandparents. who are vulnerable due to their age, would end up caring for children.

That’s exactly what I’m doing. A grandson is ‘immunne-compromised’ – he has type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease. We are taking him in and setting up in virtual self-isolation. I can do this because I can work from home. And we will talk to his high school about keeping him at home.

We see this as prudent because his other family contacts pose a greater risk – his father is still working which involves personal contact, he has siblings at two other schools, and his other grandparents work in exposed jobs – in a supermarket and as a taxi driver that does airport work.

The official stance on level 2 is that as a country we are not yet in lockdown – but the sooner that happens the more we can reduce spread of the virus.

The petition calling for moving immediately to Level 4 and a mandatory social lockdown has jumped to 55,000 signatures.

Stuff: Major benefits and dire consequences to lockdowns, expert says

The Ministry of Health says it will only encourage lockdowns in New Zealand if the local coronavirus situation changes dramatically.

But a public health expert believes a lockdown is critical sooner rather than later to fight the pandemic and save New Zealand from the catastrophic path of some other countries.

For now, appeals for people to self-isolate and follow social distancing remain pivotal to Government coronavirus strategy. But outrage is brewing about people who flout self-isolation guidelines and can’t seem to take social distancing advice.

As shutdowns loom in Australia, a comprehensive local lockdown now would offer New Zealand a “clear path forward”, Professor Michael Baker told Stuff on Sunday.

“All I can do is convey the epidemiological rationale for doing it very rapidly,” said Baker, from the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health.

“The alternatives are pretty dire.”

Enforcing limits in social movement could essentially suffocate the virus’ ability to spread, Baker said.

Baker expected Government leaders were already preparing for lockdowns.

He believed it was a matter of timing and taking into account logistical challenges, but said the sooner lockdowns came, the better.

Baker said he’d “be delighted” if a lockdown was announced immediately.

I want to avoid direand am concerned that Covid-19 may already spreading in communities.

I’m going to effectively lock down now – it will be enforced soon anyway, and protecting lives must be a priority. We all have this choice now.

Stuff: Close schools immediately, Teaching Council pleads

The Teaching Council has called for all schools and daycare centres to shut down immediately.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, Teaching Council chief executive Lesley Hoskin made the call which she said was on behalf of 130,000 teachers.

The closure should be immediate, she said.

“As the voice of teachers, the council, on behalf of all teachers, implores you to act now and to move to Alert Level-4, closing early childhood centres and schools.


Leave a comment


  1. artcroft

     /  23rd March 2020

    Best of luck. Sounds like you will be in isolation for the best part of a year.

    • That’s what it looks like. I think we will all be in long term isolation sooner rather than later.

      At least I have plenty of space around me.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  23rd March 2020

        The weeds look likely to take a beating this winter.

        • Corky

           /  23rd March 2020

          It’s going to be a bad year for weeds and household chores that have been giving the fingers to owners. I’m waiting for the experts to crawl out of the woodwork offering advice on conflict resolution; whanau dynamics and things you can do to mitigate cabin fever. For them it will be a year made in heaven…someone may listen to them for a change.

  2. David

     /  23rd March 2020

    Wife is working from home from tomorrow which will annoy her no end.
    I think there should be mandatory government imposed and carried out isolation for all arrivals over the border. Pretty much all our problems are being imported and its bloody stupid to start imposing restrictions on locals and leaving a glaringly large hole as a portal from the infected world outside. Chuck them in the empty hotels we have plenty.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  23rd March 2020

    As I said previously I will start believing NZ has enough tests for everyone who needs one when Jacinda says there are enough tests for everyone who. wants one.

    The point made about selectivity of testing determining the results is well made and pretty damning of the Govt agencies involved.

    I’ve already been taking some precautions and will probably take more but living with two people is inevitably higher risk.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  23rd March 2020

      If tests were limited they should have neen doin randomised sample testing of people with symptoms but no travel connection from the start. That would at least have given a heads up st symptom onset stage of prevalence and risk.

  4. Corky

     /  23rd March 2020

    In my opinion the best summation of this crisis in all regards was expressed by Mikey this morning. No hyperbole..just cogent concise common sense. He’s called the government out for lying about some issues. And as Pete has done, believes we should be in lockdown. He also expanded on how cultural responses to containing the virus has a huge impact. The Asian way v the laid back Western way, of which we are the absolute classic example. While that factor is nothing new to posters on this blog, many probably haven’t thought about it.
    That’s good, because if the proverbial hits the fan, this government will be in a whole world of hurt. How quickly things can change.

    • Blazer

       /  23rd March 2020

      being isolated from Mikeys rants would do you a world of…good.

      • Corky

         /  23rd March 2020

        You are entitled to your opinion…an opinion of no relevance to a ”thinking person.” I’m sure Katie Bradford fulfils your news requirements.

    • duperez

       /  23rd March 2020

      Is that the Mikey on the station whose wife read out a pile of texts just before 5.30? Texts saying the Government should close the country down, the Government hasn’t done enough, etc, etc. And sneering about the PM suggesting people be nice to each other.

      It was followed by a bit about how people weren’t following sensible protocols that had been announced. The tone, “that’s bloody slack.” They certainly wouldn’t have been able to handle it if the country had been shut down six weeks ago. For God’s sake they can’t even handle hearing the PM suggest that people be nice to each other and help others. So, limits put on normal activity now are too hard but now want draconian limitations to have been put on months back?

      MediaWatch yesterday covered the different approaches of the media ‘experts’ showing (as expected I suppose) that their views are as diverse as in any group. “… Mike Hosking was complaining that the measures were too little too late having previously warned against the Government jumping the gun…”. Mikey of the no hyperbole, just cogent, concise, common sense.

      • Corky

         /  23rd March 2020

        I stand by what I wrote. Of course things change. I think he believes the government hasn’t changed with the situation fast enough.

  5. Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the military will be called on if needed to ensure the public follow the Government restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Bush will lead the Government’s operational response to Covid-19.

  6. Viaduct restaurant staff hunt down pilot refusing to self-isolate

    A pilot who refused to self-isolate was tracked down by staff from an Auckland waterfront restaurant to a nearby bar.

    The pilot and his crew allegedly arrived in the country from a global coronavirus hotspot but were not interested in following self-isolation rules.

    The pilot flew into New Zealand on Saturday and refused to co-operate with HeadQuarters staff when trying to enter, before fleeing the establishment.

    Staff from HeadQuarters, owned by Leo Molloy, were sent out to track down him down – he was found 20 minutes later in a Princes Wharf restaurant.

  7. Conspiratoor

     /  23rd March 2020

    Important to distinguish between isolation and quarantine. If the following statements are correct…

    1, there is a section of the community who are more vulnerable and make up the overwhelming bulk of the fatalities
    2, the overwhelming bulk of those not in the above category go on to recover
    3, there is a high probability the entire population will eventually be exposed to the virus

    Then rather than plunging the country into a doomsday scenario perhaps the government should limit the impact by mandating the most vulnerable go into quarantine now. This would include the elderly, asthmatics, diabetics, immuno-compromised and those with bronchial issues.

    Let the vast majority continue to earn and get on with their lives as best they can by using their natural immunity to combat the virus

    • “by mandating the most vulnerable go into quarantine now”

      As far as I can make out they are encouraged to go into isolation, including all over 70, but there is no compulsion.

      There are too many examples of people ignoring or flouting requirements for my liking. I don’t want to be put at risk by others who don’t care.

      • Conspiratoor

         /  23rd March 2020

        Yes, that is the key difference between Adern’s ‘advice’ to people over 70 and those with immune or respiratory conditions to stay home and compulsory quarantine. To implement would take some effort to put support mechanisms in place but where there is a will…

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  23rd March 2020

          What is the asthmatic supposed to do about getting inhalers ? My orange one has run out and the blue ones are not enough. I need to see a doctor to get a new prescription. People with worse asthma than mine (and mine’s bad enough) would die in enforced isolation if this happened.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: