Coronavirus - what you need to know

Know how to protect yourself against viruses and infections! In January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed a new type of coronavirus, (COVID-19) which starts with a fever and cough, and leads to severe respiratory symptoms.

It's important to remember simple actions that you can do to protect your health, and the health of those around you. Hand washing regularly for 20 seconds is a great way to prevent many skin, gastro, and respiratory infections.

Advice for health professionals and general updates on coronavirus can be found on the Ministry of Health website.(external link)

If you have concerns about your health or the health of others please call the national Coronovirus hotline on 0800 358 5453


Response to the threat of coronavirus in Tairāwhiti stepped up a level at the weekend.

Along with the big announcement on Saturday (14 March 2020)  about all people entering New Zealand needing to self-isolate, there was also a broadening of the criteria directing when to test someone for coronavirus. This means that more people in New Zealand will need to be tested.  To ensure this is done efficiently designated testing sites or swab centres were set up on the weekend.

Swab Centres have been set up throughout the district. The centres have 100 test kits available and further training on the effective use of personal protective equipment is being done. These are not walk-in centres, reiterates Hauora Tairāwhiti Chief Medical Officer Anne Kolbe.

“People will need to meet the criteria for testing and be referred by the national Coronavirus Healthline or by their GP.”

The criteria for testing is anyone with a fever, sore throat, shortness of breath or coughing, who has returned from overseas in the last 14 days or been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus. Anyone who thinks they meet that criteria should call Healthline 0800 358 5453 for advice 24/7 or their GP. Please don’t walk into your Medical Centre or Gisborne Hospital without calling first. 

Where are the Swab Centres?

Gisborne: One of Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Mobile Dental Clinics has been turned temporarily into a mobile swabbing centre. It is based in the Three Rivers Medical Centre Carpark.

East Coast: Te Puia Hospital.

Te Karaka: next to Waikohu Medical Centre


A person who was admitted to Gisborne Hospital for an unrelated matter has been tested for COVID-19 (Coronavirus.) They met the clinical criteria and had recently travelled from overseas (within 14 days from a country that has COVID-19) 
The results have come back negative and the person has been discharged. 

For the last few weeks, Hauora Tairāwhiti has been making sure we are ready for any possible case of Coronavirus. This was a good test of our preparations. Thanks to the staff involved who managed the situation well.

If you have returned from one of these countries in the last 14 days:
China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore or Thailand
you have fever, cough, sore throat or short of breath
you have you been in contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

CALL the COVID-19 Helpline 0800 358 5453 for free medical advice 24/7.

Don’t go to your GP, Medical Centre or Emergency Department without calling first.

The best way to keep you and your whānau protected against germs and viruses is to wash your hands. Wash them regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water and then dry thoroughly.

Information about COVID-19 is regularly updated on the Ministry of Health website. link)



The Hauora Tairāwhiti Coronavirus Preparedness group, including representatives from nursing, public health, infection control, communications and emergency management, are maintaining a close watch on overseas developments, This is in line with recommendations from the Ministry of Health and includes an Isolation and Quarantine Plan.

Hauora Tairawhiti Medical Officer of Health Doctor Osman Mansoor said only people living or travelling in an area where the COVID-19 virus was circulating could be at risk of infection.

“At present, COVID-19 is circulating in China where the vast majority of people infected have been reported.”

Dr Mansoor said infection with Covid-19 could cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever — as was the case with most respiratory illnesses.

“It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal — currently 2 percent of all cases.”

Dr Mansoor said because the virus did not spread through the air, a medical face mask was of no value unless there was close contact with an infectious person.

“You can also infect yourself from a mask if there was any virus on it by touching it and then touching your face. This is why hand-washing with soap is vital. Your hand could touch a droplet on a surface.

“Hand-washing with soap and water has been shown to prevent diarrhoea, skin infections and pneumonia, and is the single most important preventive action that people can take.

“To become infected, you have to be exposed to the virus, which usually requires close contact. The virus spreads from respiratory secretions. The virus is in large droplets that cannot stay in the air.

“It can be spread by a cough or sneeze, contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it (then touching your mouth, nose or eyes), or close personal contact.

Dr Mansoor said people usually had to be closer than one metre for at least an hour to have a good chance of spreading it.

“To be safe, we are using two metres and 15 minutes.

“If you do have a fever or cough, stay home and don't spread one of the 200-plus bugs that can cause respiratory infections, including the new virus.

“If you do cough, do so in the crook of your elbow so that your hands do not become infected and potentially infect others.

“Most at risk are older people while people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends New Zealanders do not travel to any part of mainland China.

In order to reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading within New Zealand, additional border measures have been implemented.

Those measures include denying entry to New Zealand to anyone who has left or transited through mainland China from February 2, 2020, with the exception of New Zealand citizens, including those from the three Countries of the Realm — Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands — permanent residents and their immediate family, and aircrews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment.

More information on the coronavirus in Tairawhiti is linked here.

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