Source of virus unknown with first NZ Covid death

A Greymouth woman in her seventies is the first to die from Covid-19 in New Zealand, and it is not known how she contracted the virus.

Ministry of Health: Sadly, first death from COVID-19 in New Zealand

The death was in a woman in her seventies who had initially been admitted four days ago with what was thought to be influenza complicated by a underlying chronic health condition.

As a result of the initial diagnosis of influenza and then the subsequent confirmation of COVID-19 there was a period when staff treating the woman were using protective equipment suitable for influenza, but not COVID-19.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed staff took a range of measures to protect themselves and other patients, however as a precautionary approach, the DHB has placed 21 staff in self-isolation for the balance of 14 days from their last involvement in the patient’s care.

Family members visiting the woman in hospital, who do not have symptoms, will also be in monitored self-isolation for the next 14 days.

Stuff: Family of first person to die from Covid-19 in NZ don’t know how she contracted virus

The family of the first person to die of coronavirus in New Zealand say she was just going about her weekly routine and have no idea how she became infected.

Anne Guenole died in Grey Base Hospital, Greymouth on Sunday morning. The Ministry of Health said Guenole, in her 70s, had initially been diagnosed with influenza that was complicated by an underlying health condition, but returned a positive test for Covid-19 on Saturday morning. The 21 staff who treated her are self-isolating.

The woman had been admitted to hospital on Wednesday.

Just before the lockdown took effect. Obviously she contracted the virus well in advance of the lockdown, and possibly before people over seventy were told to self-isolate the Saturday before that.

Staff who first assessed her were in full personal protective equipment (PPE), however because she did not initially meet the case definition for Covid-19 they removed their eye protection.

By Thursday night, Meates said the woman met the case definition and staff started wearing eye protection again while waiting for test results which came through on Saturday morning. The 21 staff who came into contact with her had been placed in self-isolation.

Family members who visited the woman in hospital would also be monitored in self-isolation for the next 14 days.

…another relative of Guenole, who also declined to be named, told Stuff on Sunday evening the family had no idea how she contracted Covid-19.

“There’s so much emphasis on tourists and travel and all this sort of stuff but this is just a lovely lady just doing what she does week after week – going shopping, paying bills, nothing out of the ordinary for her.

“There’s a lot of blanks that we’re trying to fill in right now to see what’s where, what’s why, where she has been, things like that.”

The family was unaware of any significant health conditions.

Despite MOH saying she had an”underlying chronic health condition”.

“She was a very private person, she didn’t give a lot away. A lot of old-school people, they don’t let you know when they’re unwell, she just didn’t put much out there, kept her aches and pains to herself.”

Very sad for the family, and a shock to the country. Covid deaths seemed inevitable, but when it happens it makes the dangers more stark.

Grey District Mayor Tania Gibson earlier said Guenole’s death came as a “big shock” to the small community.

Gibson said news of the death drove home the message that people needed to stick to their bubble and stay home to break the chain of transmission. She had heard of people not abiding by the rules, but said that needed to stop.

If you take risks, you are increasing risks for others. But it can be difficult convincing everyone.

RNZ Live:

The Director-General of Health has no doubt the cases of community transmission of Covid-19 are on the rise.

Ashley Bloomfield was asked how many of the 514 cases to date have been community transmission.

“I don’t have the exact figure and of the new cases in the last day or two, many of those are still being followed up and investigated.

“The number associated with community transmission will be increasing, I have no doubt about that, and particularly because we are seeing those small number of clusters around the place,” Dr Bloomfield said.

RNZ: PM backs families battling to keep seniors in their bubble

People over 70 and those with underlying health conditions were the first to feel the brunt of the lockdown, being told to stay home four days before the rest of the country but some aren’t taking notice.

Brooke Magill is trying to deal with her grandparents who are failing miserably at obeying the lockdown rules.

Despite being told family would drop off the groceries, her nana got to the local New World and began messaging about what a wonderful experience it was going to the supermarket and being given priority access.

“All her neighbours knew she’d also been out so what happened is one of the nurses across the road came across to her and quite robustly told her if she was to take her vehicle out again she’d slash her tyres.”

Magill isn’t alone and has plenty of friends and colleagues fighting the same battles, and for the most part it’s because their parents and grandparents are social people who can’t handle being stuck indoors.

Nelson’s Grey Power president Christine Tuffnell said it’s not so much about the elderly not listening to their children and more about how they get hold of information.

She said it’s the elderly living on their own, like her, that are the most isolated.

“I don’t think there’s an issue of the elderly not listening at all, I think it’s how we get the current information to them.

“It’s very much an online society but a lot of them aren’t online so we have to look at how we get that information out.”

Covid-19 is dominating all media, TV, radio and newspapers, so there should be few people who are unaware of what is happening and what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

Tuffnell said the number of over 70 year olds who have been infected by Covid-19 in New Zealand to date is quite low, which possibly reflects the fact they’re staying home.

At the time over 70s were told to stay home – when the country was still at level 2 – some thought it was a little early.

Tuffnell said looking back now it was a very wise move by the government.

And one message that has stuck with the elderly is staying in their own bubble.

“People have caught on to the bubble idea, I think that’s probably one of the best things – people are actually understanding the bubble,” she said.

It would be wise for everyone to ‘stay in their bubble’ as much as possible. As much as possible we should identify people living alone (or isolated couples), especially older people and those without the Internet, and provide safe means of communication.

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  1. david in aus

     /  30th March 2020

    Transparency is very important. The unfortunate death in Grey hospital illustrates the likely extent of community transmission.

    The covid19 numbers reported most definitely do not represent the degree of infection in the community. That was why I was so surprised that the government went to stage 1 to 4, practically overnight.

    The lack of early testing was a huge problem despite the PM reassurances. We didn’t know where we were. They should acknowledge that, all governments make mistakes. Then at least when the lockdown finishes, we can at least look the numbers tested with a skeptical eye.

  2. David

     /  30th March 2020

    I am alarmed at the incompetence of the hospital staff, not sure if you can sheet that home to them breaking protocols or incompetence from the minister at not having proper guidelines in place. This is the 2nd time loads of health workers have had to go and self isolate.
    Flu symptoms while the country is being locked down and the WHO have declared a pandemic and thousands are dying and they just assume its the flu and nothing to worry about. The whole health system will grind to a complete halt unless the Minister starts getting a hod of his department.
    Also Greymouth has just 5 ventilators ! How many minutes before they ran out.

    • david in aus

       /  30th March 2020

      The hospital staff was not incompetent. They do risk-based assessments. Remember the guidelines at the time in NZ was to test only those with travel from risk areas or contacts.

      They used PPE for influenza which is similar to Covid19, except the eyewear.
      We do not know how much difference eyewear makes.

      PPEs are scarce, ideally would want to assume that any patient or colleague has COVID 19. But then you only have a week’s supply then you are unprotected.

      • David

         /  30th March 2020

        We are told daily there are plentiful supplies of PPE equipment by Bloomfield and the difference between wearing eye protection and not is 21 health staff off for 14 days and lets hope they are in total self isolation.
        Surely anyone presenting with flu like symptoms should be assumed to be Covid until testing proves otherwise.

        • That’s the case now (I don’t know why it wasn’t already).

          Ashley Bloomfield said the person who died came in with flu symptoms and there was no reason to suspect Covid-19.
          But there has been a shift in the way tests are being done.

          Everyone going into GPs or emergency departments with flu-like symptoms will now be treated as if they have Covid-19, he said.

          – RNZ Live

          • Duker

             /  30th March 2020

            Funny that , Ive been saying the illness is ‘like flu’ for some time. Human carried , attacks the respiratory system, symptons similar ( with differences). Like flu most recover. Unlike Flu we dont have a vaccine or existing anti -viral treatments for the severely ill . Like flu it kills.
            I have the numbers for Australia for 2019 , 138 deaths attributed to influenza/pnuemonia

            • Funny that, you are repeating something yet again but still don’t seem to have a point.

              If Australia had done nothing but treat Covid-19 patients when they became ill and buried or cremated them when they died how many deaths do you think would be possible this year? Next year?

              Once there is a vaccine the risks and death rate might become similar to the flu, but that’s likely to be next year at the earliest, presuming they come up with an effective vaccine.

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