25 April 2020
New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 on 27 April, 11.59 pm. Over the week we’ve received some questions about what COVID-19 Alert Level 3 means for people with CF and their families.
These guidelines and answers to questions provide general advice for people returning to work and changes to hospital visits. We’ve also included some resources for further information from the Ministry of Health which is updated daily.
In COVID-19 Alert Level 3, physical distancing and washing and drying your hands regularly is still an effective way to minimise infection risk.
Just like during Alert Level 4, people with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and some older people are at higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
You don’t have to stay at home but do take extra precautions when you go out. Like everybody, you can only go out for essential purposes, such as getting food, going to the pharmacy, to exercise or to work (if you can’t work from home).
However, you may prefer to get essential supplies through family, friends or neighbours or have it delivered.
Wash your hands often, keep 2 metres distance from others, protect your bubble and get your flu jab.
Yes, but only if you can’t work from home. If you can’t work from home, you can return to work if you agree with your employer that you can do so safely.
Your employer must meet the requirements for safe practice which are the measures of social distancing, hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.
Some jobs don’t allow for social distancing e.g. any job that has customers. In Alert Level 3 no business can operate in a manner that involves contact with customers but there are some essential services where it can’t be avoided.
The measures to take for additional protection for each individual person needs to be individualised and people should seek guidance from their local care team.
One option is the use of surgical masks particularly in any situation where a physical distance of more than 2 metres isn’t possible. Masks must be used correctly though, including not touching the mask other than the straps and disposing of it appropriately. Masks should be single use and changed if it’s wet.
The same guidelines for healthcare workers and essential services can be applied for people returning to work, though they are designed for healthcare workers so not all may be applicable.
It’s important to know that New Zealand has a very low prevalence of COVID-19 now (0.008% active cases, so the absolute risk is low.) But if you have a vulnerable person within your bubble you may want to consider additional protection.
There’s a very low prevalence of COVID-19 in NZ, therefore it’s safe to go to hospital.
Follow the advice of your clinical team if they recommend an admission. Hospitals have guidelines to help protect people who need treatment, and for people with CF and post-transplant this is treatment that’s often not deferrable or acute. Non urgent treatment will be deferred.
Different district health boards have their own policies for Alert Level 3. While Alert Level 4 meant no visitors were allowed, Alert Levels 3 and 2 sees some relaxation of that rule.
The National Hospital Visitors Policy, as per the Ministry of Health website, offers the following for visitors with no suspicion of COVID-19.
Alert Level 3: A maximum of one visitor at any one time may visit a patient at the hospital or clinic. For high risk areas, a maximum of one visitor at a time will be allowed, for one visit per day.
Alert Level 2: A maximum of two visitors at any one time may visit a patient at the hospital or clinic. For high risk areas, a maximum of one visitor at a time will be allowed, for one visit per day.
Visiting must take place during usual visiting hours, unless there is a prior arrangement with the ward. When visiting relatives in hospitals it is important to follow level 3 precautions such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing of 2 metres. The hospital will record visitors’ details, in case contact tracing is necessary.
Find out more: Alert Level 3 questions and answers, Ministry of Health