Keeping R&V COVID-19 free

Alice Angeloni - Gisborne Herald,

15000 people will be camping at R&V this year

Health and emergency services in Gisborne are working through how they would handle a potential Covid-19 outbreak at Rhythm and Vines.

If someone tested positive at the music festival, 23,000 attendees would be asked to stay where they were while health officers found and isolated the case's close contacts.

Being held outdoors, there would be “less risk” of spread, but all attendees would be considered “casual contacts”.

Rhythm and Vines runs from December 28 to 31 at Waiohika Estate with more than 100 artists on the lineup including headliner Benee.

Hauora Tairawhiti public health emergency planner Cyrena Bennett said they would like attendees to stay in place until clear instructions were given on how to get home safely without spreading the virus.

Festival organisers, along with staff from multiple hospital departments, public health nursing, primary care, St John, Police, and Gisborne District Council held a workshop on November 30 to go through “realistic and credible” Covid-19 scenarios.

“The aim of the workshop was to establish a coherent, multi-agency response to an outbreak of Covid-19 at Rhythm and Vines,” Mrs Bennett said.

“We looked at what the impacts would be on our community if something should happen. Our objective for the workshop was to confirm who the lead agency would be and what their roles and responsibilities were.

“We wanted to confirm the response actions of all partner agencies and departments so that everyone who was involved knew what their response would be to a Covid case here.”

In one possible scenario discussed at the workshop, a girl released from managed isolation four days earlier becomes unwell and approaches St John at the festival.

St John would notify the medical officer of health, who would lead the response. As someone showing a “high index of suspicion”, a “rapid test” could see a result returned within two hours.

The local contact-tracing team would find close contacts while the girl would be sent to a managed isolation facility in Rotorua or Auckland.

In another scenario, local health authorities receive a call from the national contact-tracing team to say a contact of a positive case is “possibly” camping at Rhythm and Vines.

Mrs Bennett said they were confident of the processes they had in place.

“Our public health nurses will have a space set up for if we have to set up testing out at Rhythm and Vines. That's all ready to go. We've got the resources and the staff to do that.

“Should something happen, public health will set up their emergency operations centre and we have got the people to staff that. We have also got constant support from the Ministry of Health nationally.”

Mrs Bennett said they had been working with Rhythm and Vines every year for the past 15, about their response to an infectious disease.

“Of course it's been stepped up this year because of Covid-19,” she said.

Festival able to host campers 'extra few days'

Festival director Kieran Spillane said they could host their 15,000 campers for an extra few days if a Covid-19 outbreak occurred.

If attendees needed to remain in their “bubble” and stay in place, they had the core infrastructure at Waiohika Estate including toilets, showers, water and St John. If this occurred, they would probably need to restock food through their vendors who would also remain on site, he said.

“Worst-case scenario is that the people who are camping on-site would have to remain on-site until they have been tested and cleared to go home,” Mr Spillane said.

Some members of the community have expressed concern about the hordes of people arriving for the festival, but Mr Spillane said the country appeared to be Covid-free except for those in managed isolation.

“There is no inherent risk. We've heard some of these comments before. Some are maybe singling out Rhythm and Vines. Why are Air New Zealand still flying into Gisborne, why are any hotels and motels open?

“People are coming from all over New Zealand to come to Rhythm and Vines but New Zealand is at Alert Level 1 so the Government deems it safe for people to move around the country freely.”

This comes after the Government unveiled its plan for a possible resurgence of Covid-19 in the summer break, using scenarios of positive tests at a campsite or music festival.

“We are working very closely with the Ministry of Health and the local health board to make sure that we're doing everything we can. These people are the experts in this field so we're taking on board everything they're requiring us to do,” Mr Spillane said.

“We're pretty much in continuous consultation as to what the most robust plan is to keep Rhythm and Vines Covid-free this year,” Mr Spillane said.

Rhythm and Vines would send information out to attendees before the event, telling them not to come if they felt unwell, to wash their hands and to encourage masks.

There would be hand sanitiser available and hand-washing stations, with public messages directing attendees to be assessed by St John on-site if they felt unwell.

“We will encourage patrons to wear masks if they feel comfortable doing so.” link)

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